by Marcy Magiera
New movie streaming service Prescreen promises content owners and filmmakers that its social networking model will deliver “blockbuster exposure on an indie budget.” But scratch the surface and the streaming site, founded by ex-Groupon exec Shawn Bercuson, looks as much like a market research tool as a distribution platform.
The site (www.prescreen.com) will keep films in its inventory for just 60 days; at the end of that period, Prescreen will provide content owners with a detailed “performance report” with aggregated regional, demographic, and Internet usage information about the people who watch each film. That sort of information is valuable for plotting theatrical, TV, and other release plans.
“Eventually, we want to amass the audience of a $20 million marketing spend,” says Prescreen founder and CEO Bercuson, who previously was vice president of business development with Groupon. “But since the films are on for only 60 days, [participation] could be a promotion thing, rather than a distribution thing.”
The site operates on a straight revenue sharing basis, with Prescreen and content owners splitting rental fees. Prescreen does not pay anything else to content owners or acquire any rights to the films it streams.
Prescreen is designed to appeal to cinephiles who value being the first to see a film and pass recommendations along to friends. One film per day is added to the site, and each is available for on-demand streaming for just 60 days. Prescreen sends a daily email featuring the new movie added that day to subscribers. It has 30,000 subscribers after two weeks in operation, according to Bercuson.
Movies cost $4 on their first day of availability on the site. The price doubles to $8 on days two through 60. Once a user starts to watch a movie, there is a 48-hour viewing period. If a user is among the first 5% of orders for a film, they earn a free movie. This creates an incentive for users to share the film through email and social networks, says Bercuson.
Prescreen, which launched Sept. 14, also is spending $100,000 a month online to advertise its service, says Bercuson. The site is drawing content from Kino Lorber and The Film Collaborative, and is talking to other companies, including major studios, Bercuson adds.
Filmmakers can submit their work directly to Prescreen, which chooses tiles based primarily on them having some sort of previous exposure, such as festival play.
Films featured on the site include high-profile documentary “The Gloucester 18”, about the pregnancy pact between a group of Massachusetts high school girls, and “The Robber”, which showed in the New York Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival.
So far, several films have thousands of trailer views, but the most popular has just 77 paid rentals.