Nobody knows anything... it’s a guess – and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.” (Goldman, 1983)
This thesis examines how digital technologies have interfered with the practice of film distribution and consumer behaviour with a focus on an independent production in the UK.
The report begins by using the concept of a value chain as a framework for examining audience consumption habits and why it is principle represents a challenge for independent distributors and, subsequently, explains emerging business practices as a result of new technologies. The thesis argues that film distribution is shifting from a market-driven by supply to a market-driven by demand. In this way, independent distributors can now break the rigid unique value chain that dominates the industry and adopt tailor-made release strategies, tailored to the individual needs of each film. This undoubtedly marks the beginning of a fundamental change in the relationship between the main segments of the film’s value chain, allowing independent distributors to create a more attractive product, conducting their business in response to consumer demands. The impact of digital technology on the activities of the distribution and consumption value chain is making the transition from the independent market, from demand to demand. As new business strategies are adopted, the market can develop in two directions: one for independent distributors, based on multi-platform launches, the other for Hollywood studios that continue to use models centered on traditional mechanisms.
The thesis follows on this reasoning to present what are the disruptions that the independent market has been using as strategies to break with the traditional value chain of the film industry, and presents some cases considered successful. The report then focuses in the history of public policies in the UK and the BFI actions as a way of identifying that public policies aimed at the distribution sector are essential so that new business model can be used by independent distributors, in parallel with the large studios, which function independently and do not depend on public policy support. Finally, the thesis concludes that the sector is still at a relatively early stage in terms of adapting and adopting new technologies. The industry still does not know how to deal with the new behavioral paradigms of a demand-led market and is far from mastering the techniques of engagement. The lessons will continue to be learned as distributors gain relevant experience and data on the effectiveness of new approaches to adopt new business models successfully. A key question left unanswered remains the economic viability of new distribution models.