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NFB announces international documentary VOD service

NFB Tom PerlmutterTalking at Sheffield Doc/Fest, Tom Perlmutter, film commissioner for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) announced the creation of a new subscriber VOD service especially for documentary films, to be launched June 2014.

The Netflix-like monthly subscription service, exclusively for documentaries, is to “redefine the documentary experience of the 21st centrury.”

Currently 1.5bn viewers across the globe watched close t0 200 online videos each month for an average of 18.67 hours and over 35% of smartphone users accessed mobile video services.

“Broadcasters are becoming just another app on the screen so the market place is changing.

“Audiences want to engage with documentary content that challenges and inspires them. And they are not finding it in the usual places,” Perlmutter said.

“Even if they find it then it is very limited, US broadcaster POV commissions 17 quality documentaries , Storyville are probably not far off.”

The commissioner called the new service “a documentary initiative to engage a global audience” and said: “Now, more than ever, the world wants to know more about the world.”

The content, which will exist of around 2000 documentaries to begin with, will be downloadable for all smart TVs and continue to be developed alongside new upcoming streaming devices.

To date, OTT services have been concentrated mainly on broad consumer offerings. This, and its competitive pricing (said to be around £2.99/CAD $5.99) will ensure that the service is no competitor to Neflix but can exist alongside it.

The as of yet unnamed facility is a NFB initiative, however, not a NFB service.  The organisation, a pioneer when it comes to interactive storytelling, is currently talking with partners over the world to start a global partnership. The service will be set up as a for profit enterprise.

The idea , Perlmutter announced to an audience at Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK, is that it will be international and multi-lingual, will be curated and will “dare to engage, challenge and provoke”.

The film commissioners would initially work with existing names and but would like to work towards a situation in which they can also commissioning original content to premiere on the service.

The service will first be released in June 2014 in Canada, the States and France, and then be rolled out in other territories.

It  will have room for thematic programming, connect with live events, and the product will have an algorithm which can link to the headlines news (even on a local level) and provide content that is fitting to your needs and interests.

Perlmutter said of Netflix that the service had “a very crappy design, it is a supermarket shelf and doesn’t make use of the opportunities that exist.”


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Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentaries and the film production industry. When she is not blogging or watching films, she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.

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