Two Cases: Cultural vs Commercial

The VoD market took off in the first quarter of 2006. Feature films are the main offerings, yet a couple of services have decided to focus on documentaries. DOX profiles two very different examples.

Owned by: JSAF (organises IDFF Jihlava), a cultural service supported by the Czech ministry of culture and education, the State Fund for the Support of Cinematography and the Visegrad Fund.

Launched: 7 August 2006
Location: Czech Republic
Language: English (a few films in Czech only)
Titles (June 2007): 200, adding 300 a year.
Rights: non-exclusive, world (if possible)
Revenue share: 60% producer / 40% Doc Air
Downloads: approx. 160 streamings / DVD downloads per week
Profile: Creative docs

Interview with Doc-Air Manager Nina Numankadic

133513DOX: “Doc-Air was born to give viewers access to the kind of creative documentaries the International Documentary Film Festival Jihlava shows, also outside of the festival. What would you say is the aim behind the service: to give viewers access to this kind of films or to make money for the filmmakers?”

NN: The main objectives of Doc-Air are to improve the international public’s access to European documentary production, both contemporary and archive; to give a chance to small and independent productions often not seen in theatrical or TV distribution to expand their work, to break through to the international audience; to prolong the Festival- to create access to film festivals selections all year round (not only IDFF Jihlava, but other Festivals as well). Hopefully we will launch this section by the spring 2008.

Part of the future vision that is starting to be realized is also to create a valuable set of high-quality archive documentaries from the whole world – the works that have given a shape to the creative documentary as we perceive it now, including collections of works by outstanding authors.

DOX: “Who do you consider your audience to be? Film professionals or a more general audience?”

NN: Professionals as well as an ordinary audience. The latter are increasingly taking films from the Internet, but there are far fewer documentaries available than fiction films – we have to bring documentaries to their homes. The professionals will be able to more easily look for works and authors that can fit into their distribution strategies, like the digi-cinema networks.

DOX: “How are you making the selection? What are the criteria for the films you select?”

NN: In an attempt to avoid getting lost in the jungle of virtual outlets available everywhere you look, we decided to follow the Jihlava’s Festival tradition in building the Doc-Air profile and identity. Doc-Air films are selected by a festival programme committee, which focuses on films with thematic and aesthetic merit, emphasising socially crucial topics as well as cultural-historical values. At the same time Doc-Air figures as a platform, open for cinematic innovations, experiments, progressive and provocative docs stimulating creative dialogue between filmmakers and audience.

DOX: “Any particular popular titles?”

NN: “New Scenes from America” by J. Leth, “Losses to Be Expected”  by U. Seidl, “66 Seasons” by P. Kerekes, “Source” by Martin Marecek.
Owned by: La Banque Audiovisuelle (content aggregator)
Commercial service.
Launched: 15 September 2005
Location: France
Language: French
Titles (June 2007): 3200 (holding rights for 9000) adding 200 a month.
Rights: both exclusive and non-excusive
France (some programmes also outside France)
Revenue share: producers get 50% of net revenues
Downloads: downloads/streamings more than 20,000/month (including both through the web and its IPTV channel).
Profile: TV docs, genre docs

Interview with CEO Frédéric Pie

hubee_frederic-pie-1DOX: “How are you operating: do you deal with small and big producers and distributors alike?”

FP: We are dealing with both small and big producers and several important distributors. We have deals with more than 150 production companies, either directly or indirectly through distributors.

DOX: “What kind of deal do you make with them: Do you get exclusive or non-exclusive rights?”

FP: Sixty per cent of the deals are signed on an exclusive basis. However, deals with distributors are of course non-exclusive. Exclusivity is key for us because we have a huge activity of “re-distributors”. We have deals with more than thirty partners -from big ecommerce portals, like, and other major VoD platforms (, to small thematic websites for whom we have specific content they are crazy about. We also have deals with ISPs, in order to distribute our programmes on IPTV platforms.

DOX: “How would you describe your profile: what kind of documentaries are you taking on?”

FP: We cover all subjects from current affairs to sports. Our offer is editorialised through nine categories (Nature, Travel, Science, History, Society, Arts, Sports, Leisure, Youth) and 72 subcategories. All programmes are screened before they get into our catalogue: we check the quality of the programmes and whether they fit our editorial profile (nothing trashy, provocative or out of date).

DOX: “What is the situation in France regarding VoD rights? You screen programmes that have also been on French TV. Is that possible because the producer normally retains the VoD rights?”

FP: Most TV producers keep their VoD rights, which makes it possible for us to close direct deals with them. However, main French broadcasters have now opened their own VoD services and are sometimes tempted to sign exclusive VoD deals with their producers. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they will refuse to redistribute to other platforms like ours. For instance, we have deals with France Télévision Distribution, which distributes programmes not only to their in-house platform, but also to ours.

DOX: “You are aiming at the French-speaking market so far. Do you have any plans to go beyond that, or will you keep your focus?”

FP: LBA already has a strategic partnership with Arts Alliance Media (AAM), the European leader of digital content distribution, both to theatres (D-cinema) and homes (VoD). However, for the time being,’s offer will remain focused on France: the French VoD market is not mature yet and most other European markets seem to be lagging behind.