CEO of online content marketplace Vuulr discusses how digital transformation has revolutionized the entertainment content distribution industry

  • Vuulr is cutting the costs, time, and complexity of film and television-content deals, making it easier for both content buyers and sellers to complete deals that traditionally took months to negotiate.
  • Ian McKee, CEO of Vuulr, said he is passionate about democratizing the access to distribution for all filmmakers and content creators. 
  • Here McKee discusses how the pandemic has accelerated Vuulr's mission and explains how it has revolutionized the entertainment content distribution industry
  • Because of his work, Business Insider named McKee to our annual list of the 10 leaders transforming media and advertising in Asia.
  • Visit Business Insider's Transforming Business homepage for more stories.

Last year was marked by upheaval of tradition and leaps in digital innovation for the entertainment content industry —  headlined by WarnerMedia's announcement to premiere its 2021 movies simultaneously on its streaming service, HBO Max, and in theatres. 

With theatres around the world at half capacity and audiences' preference for watching content however they want, whenever they want, WarnerMedia's bold move augments the tide of change and heralds a new era – the digital age of entertainment, where entertainment content is an internet delivered product. 

The industry has been undergoing a deep structural shift in its distribution business for a while now. The last decade has seen the rise of streamers that have overturned the traditional power structures in the industry. The likes of Netflix and Amazon use the internet to give them global reach and valuable insight into audience behavior. 

Today, the low cost of launching a direct-to-consumer streaming service has seen an explosion of entertainment options — from mainstream channels to niche players with global reach. Traditional broadcasters have witnessed first-hand the effects of audience fragmentation on their bottom line. The lower viewership numbers on a per-channel, per- country basis inevitably translates to diminishing acquisition budgets and corresponding decline in individual deal value. In contrast, global streamers, able to aggregate audiences globally have seen an increase in budget available to secure the content their audiences need.

Catalysed by a global pandemic, the tipping point was reached in 2020, ushering in a new digital content economy. So what does this mean for those in the business of buying and selling entertainment content rights?

In terms of distribution, it takes a mindset shift from closing a "few first-window, high-value exclusive" deals to "many non-exclusive and multi-territory."

With so many streamers, the number of deal opportunities has increased many-fold for sellers that are able to scale quickly and achieve global reach for their distribution – not just for new content, but also library content. The ability to effectively manage the complexity of rights and availability across multiple territories is now crucial to operate globally. 

For acquisition executives of today, speed and access are critical.

The stiff competition for consumer eyeballs and demand for fresh content mean that Buyers need to look beyond the same portfolio of distributors they have traditionally dealt with, to seek out new sources to cherry-pick the best content for their audiences. Great content can come from anywhere and can travel anywhere — the challenge for the Buyer is to find that content by looking further afield. 

Buyers now have to source, negotiate and acquire content faster and more widely than they ever have before in order to keep pace with internet-savvy consumers. Licensing deals need to be closed in days and weeks, not 3-6 months. 

Content businesses cannot rely on their traditional, manual tool set, when they now need to run at internet speed and play by internet rules. That means moving away from one-to-one pitching or sourcing for each deal, whether it's face to-face or via a zoom video call, to a savvier way that provides better return on investment for your content and time. 

The new toolkit to release this value is about digital marketing and sophisticated digital  platforms, such as content marketplaces, which give sellers global reach and the ability to monetise their entire catalogue. And provide Buyers the opportunity to search a global catalogue and acquire titles, with deals on platforms like Vuulr typically closing in 10 days.

That's not to say the old ways are long gone, there is still a place for face-to-face meetings when they become possible again. I foresee industry events becoming more focused on networking, knowledge sharing and developing complex deals such as co-production deals, while much of content discovery, negotiation and transaction will be done digitally.

And while I'm certain that theatre-going will resume in a post-COVID-19 world, I envisage that the choice of home-viewing will be here to stay. 

About the author

Ian McKee is the CEO of Vuulr, the online global Film & TV content marketplace that connects buyers with distributors worldwide. Ian has more than 20 years' experience in the field of technology, digital marketing and disruptive innovations under his belt. Prior to Vuulr, he founded the largest social media technology agency in Southeast Asia, Vocanic, which was acquired by the WPP Group in 2013.

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