With the development of streaming platforms (Disney+ , Peacock, Pluto TV), there has never been so much excitement about online audiovisual media. The development of video platforms via all-in-one solutions such as OKAST makes the technological part accessible and reduces the entry barriers to launch a video streaming platform. But what about content rights?
Social networks and communication and marketing tools (influencers, online advertising etc…) are available to everybody, it is now very easy to launch a video business and make it known.
Nevertheless, there is one essential point: the content.
The adage “Content is king” is still as relevant as ever, and the content offer that you are going to propose on your streaming platform is just as important as the technical solution used or the way to promote it. Otherwise Amazon, Netflix or Quibi would not invest billions in content production, wouldn’t they?
Before going any further, we have to be clear about one thing: you can’t broadcast content on your platform without having the legal right to do so. A little reminder about the law, obvious for some, but important for the vast majority of people:
– Just because you find movies on illegal streaming platforms does not mean you can upload them on your platform.
– Just because you own a DVD or VOD purchase it does not mean that you have the right to broadcast it on your platform (you only have the right to view it in a private environment).
– Content on YouTube or Vimeo cannot be downloaded and then broadcast on your platform (unless you have the legal agreement of the rights holders). On the other hand, if the creator allows it, it is possible to embed the YouTube player into a third-party website (as long as the content remains in the original video player, and the views are therefore counted for the creator and his rights preserved).
To sum up: either you have full rights to the contents because you produced/created them yourself, or you did not produce the contents and in this case you need an agreement (signed contract) from the rights holders. The same goes for the use of video or musical footages in your contents, you must have a written agreement to integrate them into your creations.
Now that we set the legal framework, many people are wondering how to obtain the right to distribute content that does not belong to them. We will, therefore, see here where and how to obtain video content rights to create your own streaming platform.
Who owns rights for premium video content (films, series, anime, documentaries, etc.)?
Premium video contents are produced by professional production companies. They have usually obtained financing for the production project: either through a broadcaster (television channel) and/or through distributors (in the case of cinema films, for example). Depending on the financing, the rights are distributed among the different entities. For example, in the case of a TV series, the broadcaster will obtain the TV rights for its country of broadcast, and the distributor will keep the rights for international broadcast (and sell the series in as many territories as possible).
Without going into detail, each audiovisual content is linked to one or more rights contracts between the production company, broadcasters and distributors.
It should be noted that the production company, on the other hand, has contracts with the authors, screenwriters, and directors who contributed to the production.
Thus, when a TV series is sold to a broadcaster, the production company receives income, which it will then pay back to the various rights holders who contributed to the content.
These rights contracts between the different entities are very complex, we will not go into detail here, we simply have to remember that each audiovisual work is attached to one or more entities (production company, distribution company, broadcaster) which holds the rights.
Where can I get streaming video rights?
There are several ways to obtain the broadcasting rights to an audiovisual work:
1- Direct contract with distributors/producers :
As we have just seen, the first option is to contact the rights holders of the content directly. So you have to go to the production company of the film and ask them who owns the rights for the exploitation you want to make of it. If, for example, your platform is aimed at the European market, you have to ask whether the content rights for Europe are available. It will also be necessary to specify a duration in time: for example, exploitation for 2 years.
⚠️Caution: if you are dealing with professional companies, you will need to have a professional structure yourself but also the means to acquire these rights. Depending on the content, the duration of the rights requested and the area covered, prices can range from a few thousand euros to several million euros. If you are an individual or an association, and you would like to broadcast Games of Thrones on your platform, you can already forget about this solution. If you’re aiming at genre or niche films that are not widely distributed, you could find an agreement with small production/distribution structures. Provided that you prove to them that your platform has potential and that you could bring them eyeballs and revenues.
To find out who the rights holders are, you can look at sites like imdb and contact the companies directly. You can also contact associations that promote the distributors in each country. In France for example: TV France Internationale (for TV content) or Unifrance (for cinema).
Otherwise, you can go to international markets dedicated to the transfer of rights: MIPTV, MIPCOM, the Film Market in Cannes, EFM in Berlin, Kids Screen etc…
2- Direct contract with independent filmmakers
With the accessibility of technical equipment and knowledge resources available anywhere on the Internet, more and more premium content is being produced directly by directors or small production structures. According to Ulule, for example, 18 million euros for film and video projects have been raised in 2019 (https://www.ulule.com/stats/). There is, therefore, a lot of content that is not directly financed by broadcasters and which could potentially be broadcast on streaming platforms.
In such cases, it should be easier to find a broadcasting agreement without big investments, for example through a revenue-sharing model (see last part of this article).
3- Royalty-free content (old or free)
Another possibility is to use royalty-free content, i.e. video content whose exploitation is not subject to a broadcasting contract or the payment of broadcasting rights. Here are a few examples:
– Films that have fallen into the public domain represent an intellectual property (copyright) that is no longer protected, after a certain period of time, by the various laws related to intellectual property rights. The conditions vary according to the country, for example, in Canada a work enters the public domain 50 years after the death of all its authors, whereas in France this period has been extended to 70 years after the death of the authors. To date, more than 5,000 works that have fallen into the public domain have been uploaded to the site: https://archive.org/index.php. As you have probably already figured out, we talk here about old movies, but if you look carefully you will certainly find some treasures (including films by Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock).
– Footages websites: here you won’t find whole contents but footages that you can integrate with other contents. Sites like Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/videos/ or Youtube channels like https://www.youtube.com/user/FootageForFree will allow you to find this type of content.
– Finally, you can also decide to use existing Youtube or Vimeo contents as long as you keep the original player, and do not monetize the contents that do not belong to you. In this case, you will have the role of editor or aggregator but you will not really be able to exploit the contents as you wish. It can be useful, however, to use existing content to bring users to your platform and to offer them content that you own. The https://www.imagotv.fr/ website has chosen this model by selecting and aggregating content from various sources on their platform, while offering original creations.
Finally, there are online tools for finding available rights of audiovisual content for digital exploitation. In this case, you will be able to directly view the available content and rights.
Here are some examples of marketplaces:
– Or market places built on the blockchain like: https://ikast.io
Understand the conditions for acquiring rights to video content
When acquiring audiovisual content, you should pay attention to 2 specific points:
1/ LICENCE RIGHTS (contract):
First of all, the rights you wish to acquire:
– Types of rights: The rights will be different whether you want to acquire TV broadcast rights or Video on Demand (VOD) rights for a streaming platform. In the same way, in the VOD rights, you will have to define the mode of exploitation (TVOD, SVOD, AVOD).
– Territories: same principle here, the conditions will be different whether you want to acquire content for one country or for the whole world.
– Duration: whether it’s for 1 month, 1 year or forever, the duration of the rights acquisition will depend on the duration you need.
You must therefore determine exactly which rights you wish to acquire before contacting rights holders, as the price of the license will depend on it.
2/ LICENCE FEES:
Schematically for a rights license, there are several main models:
– Flat fees: you pay a one-time payment for the rights acquisition and then you can use the content as you see fit to monetize it.
– Minimum Guarantee (MG): you pay a minimum fee on the right contract signature and then all the revenues from the exploitation of this content are yours until you have fully recoupe this MG. Then you distribute the additional revenues according to a revenue-sharing model with the rights holders.
– Revenue sharing: in this model, you do not pay the rights but only a share of the revenue generated by the monetization of the content. This is of course the model you want to start a video streaming platform, but it is also often the hardest to negociate.
Once you have reached an agreement with the rights holders for all these conditions, you will need to draw up and sign a formal agreement in order to seal the deal.
One last tip: if you are launching a video streaming platform, do not allocate all your resources to buying rights. Focus on rare, exclusive content on a specific theme (horror movies, web-series, wildlife documentaries etc…). Choose quality content that is not overpriced, first of all what is important is to build a community around your platform, because the more users you have, the easier it will be to negotiate with rights holders.
Beyond money, content producers and creators want their work to be seen as much as possible, so focus on this point and on your marketing strategy to promote it within your platform. Security criteria are also important, which is why using a partner like OKAST can allow you to offer a secure and robust streaming infrastructure, and thus reassure your rights partners.