DHAKA: The movie industry is whooshing toward its digital future, but some players are worried about getting stuck in an informational void along the way.
The business has long used box-office numbers, which are publicly sliced and diced ad infinitum. Similarly, disc sales and rentals for years have been monitored by the Rentrak data company and others.
But as consumers shift to new channels like Netflix and Amazon, there are no generally available industrywide data on the digital performance of individual movies.
While the studios get some information, it isn’t widely shared with filmmakers, agencies or the public and those who hold the data have a distinct advantage when it comes to making deals or deciding which movies to back, or what to spend on them.
By and large, public reports of digital performance are currently limited to a handful of films, or they simply report rankings without numbers. As of Aug. 27, for instance, Rentrak’s public listing showed “The Great Gatsby” to be the top performing on-demand film as reported by its participating services, but it offered no stats.
In an address at the Toronto International Film Festival last Tuesday, Liesl Copland, a digital media expert from the William Morris Endeavor Entertainment agency, told a small group of documentary filmmakers about this large, if barely visible, problem.
Movies tumble into “analytic black holes” when they are viewed on subscription services like Netflix, on-demand providers like the cable companies and iTunes, or an advertising-driven distributor like SnagFilms, she said.
Digital distributors, she pointed out, may know infinitely more about their customers than studios could glean from their box-office analytics, even when bolstered by focus groups, exit polls, prerelease tracking interviews and close monitoring of social media.
It is no trick for a subscription or on-demand movie service to figure out what you like, when you like to watch it, how much you’re willing to pay and even whether you are sneaking a peak at a film or show, though you’ve promised to watch with a mate.
In making decisions about whether to back series like “House of Cards,” Ms. Copland reminded her listeners, Netflix relied heavily on its enormous bank of largely private information.
In truth, on-demand distributors share a great deal of data with the studios from which they’ve purchased films. For the last several years, moreover, the studios, large and small, have been sharing title-by-title information about digital downloads with one another via an arrangement with Rentrak, which collects the data and circulates it among roughly 170 entertainment company clients.
The studios also receive reports with some information on the streaming of individual titles from the NPD Group, another data company. But detailed streaming data are not routinely shared with filmmakers, agencies or news organizations.
BDST: 2121 HRS, SEP 18, 2013