Why Do We Need to Think Direct to Consumer?

Solving discoverability and accessibility are priorities for national film bodies in the post-Covid entertainment landscape but so is harnessing data to demonstrate their impact.

So much has changed in the film and entertainment landscape. Transformed by digital and accelerated by Covid, streaming means audiences now have an overwhelming abundance of choice. In the UK, Amazon Prime and Netflix currently have over 70,000 hours of content. Coupled with this unprecedented choice is unprecedented competition for our attention – all of us are now subjected to thousands of advertising messages a day.

Given these seismic changes, it’s only sensible to consider that the role of the National Film Body (NFB) needs to evolve as well.

The role of a NFB has traditionally been three-fold:

  • Accountability to Government
  • Leadership to industry
  • Benefit to Public

Vocal industry lobbying groups and purse-holding ministers mean that the first two are often prioritised over and above the third. The cliché is that an NFB makes obscure films that no one ever watches! This may be unfair but in today’s abundance of choice, the likelihood that most audiences can’t find or are unaware of the NFB’s work is very real.

It is increasingly urgent for NFBs to now lean into the question of public value – in particular solving issues of discovery and access. This is not just a moral obligation – it’s a sound strategy.

The film and entertainment landscape has shifted again after the pandemic, accelerating the power of the streaming platforms and threatening cinemas. How can audiences discover the rich vein of work that is produced in your country in this highly competitive ‘attention economy’? How can they find access to these films if they are not on their usual streaming platform?

National Film Bodies

Addressing discoverability and access is arguably much more important to the future of film than pumping more money into new productions.

The flip side of this coin is that we as national film agencies also need to better understand their audiences; where they are located, what they are looking for. Likewise, what has happened to their projects we have supported, where did they travel, how did they perform? How can they improve their work based on these trends?

These two opportunities – delivering greater public benefit and achieving access to better data – are mutually supportive. Providing direct benefit to audiences generates data – and this data can be used to benefit the industry and demonstrate value to stakeholders. How many films don’t get distribution in all territories despite there being some latent demand for them there? Having a direct relationship with audiences can help unlock such opportunities.

Consumer-facing activity and resulting data can also demonstrate value to the government and stakeholders. As an industry, we are still adapting to a world where box office is no longer the reliable marker it once was. With collapsed windows and streaming platforms retaining audience data, how do we measure an impact of a film? One way is to consider access and distribution. How many showtimes did the film receive, in which territories? How many platforms did it appear on? How many people are demanding the film? These are potentially more helpful benchmarks in measuring public value than patchy box office which may not reflect the true performance of a film.

And if these metrics can be augmented with audience data, an NFB can be more relevant, more dynamic and effective in supporting an industry in rapid change. It can also ensure NFBs are able to better make a case for their long term value in uncertain economic and political environments.

At usheru we work with leading national film agencies to help deliver access to their output and provide them with essential insights into the performance of these films. Get in touch with an industry expert today!