Today, many independent producers of social-issue film--makers of public media--survive on high-priced sales to educational institutions. They believe that the market for direct sales to consumers--which could vastly increase circulation of public media--has not yet evolved enough to risk giving away this valuable market. Meanwhile, libraries chafe under that two-tiered pricing model. The digital download era seems to offer new business models within the educational space, which could expand the market and nurture more public media makers. But transitions hurt.
A just-released report conducted by four major distributors of independent film, available at Docuseek.com, featuring an extensive survey of educational video customers, shows that a bare majority of educational institutions buying social-issue independent film are not yet downloading video. Most of the institutions surveyed prefer buying DVDs. Most also resist the idea of purchasing limited licenses rather than rights in perpetuity. Everyone would like teachable segments, but no one wants to pay a premium for them. At the same time, nearly half are downloading and a sizeable majority expects to do so in the near future. Distributors' conclusion? The market is changing but not fast enough to make independent media makers and their supporters rush out and adopt untested technologies or business plans. In educational sales, the old world of high-priced DVDs in the classroom will continue for long enough to ease a transition and gives a chance to supplement old-style distribution with well-planned digital experiments.