Vuulr’s Digitally Transformative Content Marketplace
An interview with Vuulr’s Ian McKee,
In the international content industry, the traditional way of doing business that has endured for decades has heavily relied on trade events. At Vuulr, the company has digitally transformed the well-worn ways of B2B transactions in the licensing of films and TV shows.
“You can now do it online on our platform,” says Ian McKee, founder and CEO of Vuulr. “It’s faster and more efficient when you do it digitally. If we think about it from a buyer’s perspective, we are offering a single destination that presents the aggregated catalogs from more than 3,000 sellers globally, from majors to indies. The buyer has easy-to-use search and filtering tools to search and review content without having to hop (and login) from one website to another. Additionally, since we are so global, you (the buyer) will get access to content that you might not otherwise have found—giving you the opportunity to find those hidden gems that your audience will love.”
Buyers can watch trailers and screeners via Vuulr’s built-in screening rooms and present an offer that the seller can then accept or counter. Deals on Vuulr close, on average, in eight and a half days, according to McKee. This is a boon for both buyers and sellers, the latter of which also benefit from Vuulr taking on marketing responsibilities, using sophisticated digital marketing to reach every country in the world. “We can monetize your whole catalog, truly globally. We’re not just out trying to sell your front catalog; we’re trying to sell your back catalog, as well. And you only pay us a small commission when we generate revenue for you. We don’t ask for exclusivity. We don’t ask for money upfront. For the sellers, Vuulr is a zero-risk opportunity to be able to generate more revenue.”
While Vuulr existed pre-COVID-19, its business model seems specially designed for the challenges that the content industry is now facing with markets and festivals canceled or postponed. But as McKee believes, the shift from a heavy reliance on face-to-face dealmaking to the convenience of internet-enabled pitches like Content Market Live! and online platforms like Vuulr was an inevitable one, with or without a global pandemic.
“When we launched, the efficiency and the economic advantage of doing things digitally were kind of inevitable, but this industry is also one that’s not been very used to change,” he says. “They do like things the way they always have been. Frankly, for a long time, it’s been a bit of a gravy train. And so, not surprisingly, some still don’t want to believe that it’s changing. But the reality is that COVID-19 now means that you can’t hop on a plane and fly to a meeting, you can’t rent a booth at a market to meet new people and do deals over a bottle of rosé. This new normal for the industry is strongly favoring those who are reinventing the way they work and doing things digitally.
Among the efficiencies that digital delivers is a streamlining of the process in which the seller gets all of the information needed from the buyer. It eliminates—or, at the very least, curtails—the number of iterations and therefore the time wasted going back and forth about territories and time periods and formats and exclusivity and so on. “What we designed is simple to use and very effective,” says McKee. “We provide a process where a buyer gets a sequence of prompts, which collects all of the information needed in one go. And that information is presented to the seller so that they have everything they need to allow them to accept it, reject it or, more likely, to counter-offer and send it back. Then the buyer gets a complete thing that they can either accept, reject or counter, which is why we see deals closing in eight and a half days on average. Because it’s so streamlined.”
In terms of pricing models, Vuulr supports flat-rate pricing and performance pricing, something made possible by the digital age and the capability to know who is watching, what they’re watching and how long they’re watching it for. “When the two options were free-to-air and pay TV, nobody had granular data on who was watching what and for how long,” says McKee. “Therefore, the only pricing model was a flat rate and that ended up fiercely negotiated. Wind the clock forward to today and the world has changed. Entertainment is now an internet-delivered product and VOD platforms have access to a level of granularity of data that has never existed before, which is affecting how content is being negotiated.”
For buyers, Vuulr is a free service that provides the advantage of getting to see content that they may have otherwise not have access to, conveniently aggregated and organized to make it easy to find, negotiate and acquire.
For sellers, it offers a zero-risk proposition for more revenue. It democratizes access to distribution. “Whoever you are, whatever your content is, provided it’s of broadcast quality, professionally produced content—it can be shorts, it can be feature films, it can be TV films, TV episodic content, documentaries, children’s—we cover everything,” says McKee. “We’re a place where you can put your whole catalog, and very often you’ll find that you’ll quickly start getting interest in your content, you’ll get offers and you can start negotiating. It’s a step forward. In light of COVID, it’s a great time to come on and try it out.”
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