Day One – The Wild West of Digital Deals
With an explosion of digital platforms and niche markets over the past 10 years, there are more opportunities to engage with the market today than ever before. However, because of the sheer volume of content flooding the market, the dealmaking process has become increasingly complex and competitive. Traditional and digital platforms are generally looking to make content at a minimal price and they’re looking for content that checks the necessary boxes — Can it appeal to diverse markets? Is it unique? Will it give their service a boost in viewers or customers?
In this climate, having a firm grasp on your business and marketing plan is key. Knowing your numbers and your bottomline will help as you navigate the choppy waters of digital dealmaking. Have a distribution strategy in mind. Demand transparency from potential distributors or buyers. Have a good lawyer to help you along the way. According to a number of panelists, it’s important to realize that in today’s market it is unlikely you will see any money up front. Backend deals are almost nonexistent. Authorship can fall by the wayside. And more often than not, checks won’t make their way to you for years. While this may sound bleak, if your expectations are in check and you can judiciously manage dealings, you’ll have a better chance of a positive outcome.
A large part of marketing involves knowing your target audience. Twenty years ago, Hollywood had to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Today, there’s an unprecedented level of specificity in the content that’s out there and it’s easier to tap into those niche markets. With that said, knowing how to engage with your audience is imperative. Find a platform that best suits your content and a platform that you see yourself being able to comfortably use and navigate. Crowdfunding is also a great way to generate audience interest and involvement around the project. With the democratization of investments and donations through online services like IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and StartEngine, there is a larger pool of investors than ever before. Keep in mind that most people exploring these services will get behind a project because they are passionate about it or connect to it, not because they see a huge financial reward or return, which is why knowing and appealing to your audience is key!
It’s also worthwhile to identify and corner foreign markets for your content. Carve out your own international rights instead of giving them all to your distributor. This way, you’re more likely to see money from the deal. If rights aren’t available outside the US, you will want to know this information in advance as this could potentially compromise the deal. Additionally, through the development stages of your project, keeping universal themes in mind and speaking to a global audience can be advantageous when you have to cross the international marketing bridge later on.
In focusing on the business and marketing end of your project, and less on your personal or emotional attachments to your work, it becomes undeniably clear how important networking and industry relationships are. Align yourself with the right producer to collaborate with and find an advocate at the right network to go to battle for you. But keep in mind that you won’t be able to cultivate these relationships until you prove your value in the marketplace of ideas and content creation. You have to have more than one idea or story. Express your ideas in proof of concept pieces or demonstrate your unique access point to these stories. In today’s market, ideas alone are no longer sufficient, so it’s important to paint a fuller picture for your potential partners and collaborators.
Write it, express it, put it in the marketplace until it sells, repeat. Simple, right? It’s important to realize that in today’s market, a “sale” might be a “like” or 10,000 “likes” online. There are new and changing measures of reach and success. Accumulated “likes” might lead to a meeting with a digital platform, which might lead to a distribution deal, and so on. So while it may feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar, it’s time to embrace the sprawling, uncharted plains of the new digital landscape.