The wider streaming market may be tightening its belts in the economic downturn, but it seems the long awaited indie film market recovery may well be in full swing- and it isn’t hitching its wagon to the streaming star’s coattails, too. In a magnificently timed return to ‘normalcy’, the indie market is finally showing signs of true recovery independent of the no-longer-booming streaming boom. Our Blake & Wang P.A expert entertainment lawyer, Brandon Blake, has the news from the Berlin Film Festival.
CODA was not the New Normal
When breakaway indie hit, CODA, was sold to Apple at the previous-but-one Sundance Festival, many in the indie industry feared that the well-heeled tech/streaming giants moving into the market would alter the traditional indie (and festival, for that matter) model completely. Would indie buyers become nothing more than ‘feeders’ for the streamer to then snap up the goods? Would a mere finder’s fee-style arrangement be all the reward for shouldering the risk while streamers effectively ‘flipped’ movies once they showed promise?
As it turns out, no. As we enter the first in-person European Film Market in three years, it’s clear that the streaming boom is booming no longer. In the meantime, indies are looking better than ever before. Sundance did see some high-profile streaming buys, but most of the core sales and deals went to the indie market instead. The higher profile streamers can certainly be a viable and valuable partner for the indie distribution market, but a replacement to it? Not quite.
The Volume Argument
Streamers indeed have the ability to dig deep in their pockets when there’s a particularly attractive piece on the market, but in the end, volume is the key to the continued health of the indie film market- and that volume is still primarily generated on the older market model. Especially now the age of streamers spending with abandon is, quite clearly, at its end. Apple will, undoubtedly, continue to snap up a key piece or two as they wish, a pattern they’ve been very consistent with, but we’ve seen Netflix back out of the big chase/spend model they were using until recently, and many of the other key streaming platforms are looking in-house first.
Additionally, after the first rounds of panic, we’re seeing a far better- and more collaborative- mindset emerge. Cooperation, not conflict, between old-school buying models and the entrance of the larger streamers to the market will no doubt be a theme we see echoed in many places as we go forward. Streamers are now actively creating partnerships with ‘local’ independent distributors globally, a healthier model than the high-end TV deals we saw clogging the market a few years ago. In turn, this gives the traditional indie distribution market incentive to take bolder risks on projects they believe in, too.
Is it perfect? Is the pandemic firmly relegated to history? Not quite. But overall, there’s strong signs of a happier, healthier indie market finally resuming its stride- and that’s something everyone can enjoy.