Ambitious Internet TV start-up looking for indie film content

By , posted 29 October 2010

The Internet is certainly awash with new players in the online TV market and all are seeking content. Many of these have been little more than YouTube-alikes and probably don't represent much in the way of value for the indie filmmaker. Entering this crowded space in December 2010 is a new service called itzon.tv, which aims to take a "best of both worlds" approach by marrying some of the good things about traditional TV with the benefits of delivering content over the Internet. This is abmitious in a space which is being eyed hungrily by the likes of Google TV, Apple, and the like, but from the initial information available, the service looks worthy of a look.

Here's their promotional video for filmmakers (it's a but gushy-salesy, but if you get past that the idea is interesting):



And here's the full press release:

itzon.tv taking the independent filmmaker to the forefront of Internet delivered TV

itzon is a powerful marketing facility for the independent filmmaker. Channelling the best elements from the most successful media and film-centric distribution and promotion models and pushing the boundaries further than before, itzon will enter the fast-paced arena of Internet delivered TV in December 2010.

The interactive online film festival and digital broadcast platform is designed to uncover and showcase exceptional film content and to provide an innovative and fully interactive marketing service for filmmakers. The vision is to play a part in helping more independent productions get distribution deals or be acquired for mainstream TV broadcast and to help filmmakers create co-pro opportunities, win commissions, achieve film sales, get recognition, build a global fan base for their work and earn revenue from their views. The creators want to help hand back more power to filmmakers and their teams and give them a place to screen their work that is secure, meaningful and valuable.

itzon's objectives include promoting the fact that a film's fan base can be as powerful as a huge marketing campaign, mobilising the viral voice and helping audiences and filmmakers ask traditional and longer established broadcast outlets - 'why can't you commission and screen more productions like this?' itzon will be a premium and unique new resource for traditional broadcasters and distributors to source new films and talent.

How does itzon differ to what's currently available...

When itzon goes live, the first thing that you will notice is that it looks like TV and not like an internet video hosting website. There is a continual live stream of content being played. This is an enjoyable and familiar viewing format which showcases films at their best. To prevent video stalling (buffering) which ruins the viewing experience, itzon uses bandwidth detection to autoselect the most appropriate quality for the users bandwidth connection. All films are encoded onto the system in 3 qualities up to HD720p.

Each film that is selected onto itzon will be shown 3 times in a single day's schedule of programmes (once for each of the world's major time zones). It is this 'live' transmission, which is the main marketing function in itzon. All films will have their transmission time listed in the digital weekly Whatzon magazine. The magazine, which also contains featured articles, trailers, interviews etc and is colour coded to allow audience members the ability to browse by genre, will be delivered to the audiences by email as well as being available to view on the site. Viewers have spent years looking through TV listing magazines and EPGs in order to plan their viewing week. Similarly at festivals, audiences view programmes in order to decide what they would like to watch. Extensive video hosting websites, as fantastic as they are, don't allow for this. Unless you know exactly what you are looking for, you would never find all the fantastic work hidden throughout the millions of hours of content.

Whilst visually looking like a TV channel, itzon's stream of content is a next generation film festival. One key function of a Film Festival aside from celebrating great filmmaking is to showcase films to buyers and distributors. itzon intends to be no different, it is just using the advancements of technology to allow people to do this without having to attend a festival if they are unable to.

So many films have achieved greater things through the persuasive, collective voice of its fan base. Cherrybomb (dir.Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn 2009) acquired a distributor through the active campaigning of actor Rupert Grint's fan base and it is this kind of proactive passion for film that itzon seeks to channel into deals, distribution, acquisitions and commissions for it's featured filmmakers. Itzon lets people see films they would otherwise miss and provide a place and a function to let them tell their friends and contacts, spreading the word about a film and building the demand for a wider availability.

The main itzon stream is free to watch in order to build interest for each of the films shown, and then the VoD service has two viewer options. Either a free version which contains adverts, the revenue from these adverts is split with the filmmaker, or an advert free version which requires the viewer to have purchased credit. Research has shown that audiences are a lot less likely to download a film costing 1 - 3 that they are unfamiliar with than they are a re-run of a well-known series. itzon combats this by using a credit method. Credit is deducted per minute used, so if you were to start watching a film and decided a couple of minutes in it wasn't for you, then you could stop it having spent less than a penny! The revenue earned from an audience member purchasing VoD credit is split between the filmmaker and the fee for bandwidth.

The VoD is limited for just 30 days for because itzon is both a monthly film festival and a marketing service. 30 days allows enough time for filmmakers to gain adequate feedback to be able to pitch to broadcasters potentially earn revenue from their VoD views but not damage their chances of a worldwide distribution deal by having the film online available to view for a lengthy period. They have created a buzz for their film and distributors, broadcasters and other outlets can capitalise on that in their own ways.

itzon is not restrictive about screening films that have been shown or premiered elsewhere but while any filmmaker can upload to the site, not everyone will make the cut. itzon is a curated selection of the best films, documentaries and animations from around the globe and the itzon team are committed to promoting them to a wider audience. The pre-screening, selection and custom encoding systems aim to preserve the highest possible quality.

Itzon's interactive facilities offer the ability for the audience and fans to have a say in which films receive the monthly festival awards, a way for the audience to support the filmmaker by purchasing DVDs, soundtracks or any other merchandise associated with the film, as well as the opportunity to send a message direct to the filmmaker.

With the launch in December approaching fast the team are currently putting together a superb line up of films supplied by independent filmmakers and in some cases their distribution company or agency. They are continually accepting content for future programme schedules over the coming months and relish the opportunity to promote great films.

To get a visual understanding of how itzon will look and the benefits to the filmmaker, take a quick look at the demo video at www.itzon.tv. The team will also be keeping their followers up to date on facebook and twitter.

TV is changing, film is changing, distribution and audiences are changing and itzon is at the forefront of that revolution.

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