Indie filmmakers: You just got Netflix’ed!




Remember those Dell commercials with the idiot who kept popping up shouting, “Dude, you got a Dell!”? Well, today I’d like to introduce independent filmmakers to a new expression that will likely become equally annoying: “Dude, you got Netflix’ed!” — but before you go thinking that’s a good thing, read on.

Nearly a year ago (November 16, 2009 to be exact), I warned fellow indie filmmakers that the lights were about to dim on their relationship with Netflix, historically one of Tempe’s most favored vendors and friend to the indie filmmaker. The bottom line is a year ago, the company decided to stop buying quantities of every DVD title, being selective about which titles they actually did take — something that the streaming side of things had already started doing more than a year earlier.

Despite this, Tempe’s catalog titles were renewed for another year of streaming and a handful of new titles got in the door, including PLATOON OF THE DEAD. But good luck trying to find them now, because the catalog titles expired on November 1st and the others will follow at the end of this month. That leaves only TAINTLIGHT and THE LANDLORD, which were the sole titles picked up for DVD and streaming by Netflix this year, to placate fans for another year or so.

I got the news today from my streaming buyer, which wasn’t entirely expected. Most of my exchanges with the company are via e-mail, but for whatever reason, when they want to give vendors bad news, it’s always done over the telephone — go figure. The long and the short of it is, the company is focusing on frying bigger fish of the Hollywood variety, and they’re more interested in stocking their virtual shelves with TV shows, comedies and kiddie fare than the stuff Tempe is known for.

Whether you’re an indie filmmaker or just a fan, this is a big deal. After all, the generation before mine discovered indie movies on late-night television and at the drive-in theatre, while my generation grew up discovering indie flicks on VHS or Beta videotapes, and the last generation had DVD. So how will the next generation discover these movies? That’s right: Streaming.

Or maybe not — what happens if indie movies can’t get streaming deals anymore? At the moment, the heavyweights are Netflix and Hulu — one of which has been mostly impossible to get into, and the other (which was formerly indie-friendly) is now cutting us off at the knees. But hey, it’s only business, right? Of course, there’s still DVD (such as it is) and smaller streaming outfits such as Amazon Video on Demand or EZTakes, but it’s hard to justify making a movie that costs even a few thousand dollars these days and hope to ever recoup — let alone make a profit — from that system.

As both a Netflix supplier as well as a longtime subscriber to the service, I posed the question to my streaming buyer: “What happens when your subscribers realize they won’t have access to a wider selection of titles anymore?” I’ve toyed with cancelling my own subscription on more than one occasion over the last two years, and I’ve heard about plenty of others who have already done it.

The response from my streaming buyer was essentially, “We listen to our customers — if they complain, we try to make them happy.” While it’s not a promise, it leaves at least a small ray of hope that indie fans might be able to protest the changes and maybe Netflix will see that people actually do want to see these little movies. I couldn’t find an e-mail address to file complaints like this to, but Netflix does offer a toll-free customer service phone number which is 866-716-0414 and anyone could certainly use that to complain about the selection of titles being neutered.

Oh, and what about that “Netflix’ed” expression that I mentioned earlier? It’s now going to be my short-term replacement for “getting screwed” — as in, “Dude, we just got screwed by Netflix!” would now be: “Dude, we just got Netflix’ed!”. Why?

Well, Tempe has been a longtime supplier to Netflix and were one of the first labels who signed up for their electronic delivery service (aka streaming) many years ago, long before it ever officially launched to the public. To say that I feel betrayed is an understatement, although I’ve seen the writing on the wall over the last couple of years as they switched the streaming deal from per-view to a flat license fee, then chose to stop buying the majority of our releases a year ago — and even recently canned our DVD buyer at the company, who was no longer necessary since all of their decisions were now being made on queue numbers alone.

Netflix’ed indeed.




This entry was posted on Friday, November 12th, 2010 at 3:30 pm and is filed under Announcements, Complaint Department, Movies, Tempe Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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