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SnagFilms Expands Into New Platforms, Adds Narrative Films

Major two-part expansion brings classic indie films and docs to a growing array of mobile devices and video platforms

AWARDS BEAT

SnagFilms, the three-year-old company that specializes in the digital distribution of non-fiction independent films, has announced major expansions of both its content and distribution. The new moves include the addition of fictional narrative films to its slate of documentaries, as well as ventures involving Android and BlackBerry mobile devices, DIRECTV, Vudu, Xbox Live, and Sony, Samsung and Vizio hardware.

SnagFilms logo"It's a massive expansion across two principal areas," SnagFilms CEO Rick Allen told TheWrap. "We are really escalating our efforts to put more great independent films in front of more fans."

The SnagFilms website will also receive a complete redesign, which will launch on Thursday. The new site will include a new, proprietary embeddable player; a design that offers enhanced search abilities and content from SnagFilms' indieWIRE website; broader social functionality; and a new hub for "filmanthropy," which enables viewers of socially-conscious films to take action on the issues in those films.

The expansion comes nine months after the company received $10 million in new funding from Comcast Interactive Capital and New Enterprise Associates.

"We made it clear that one of the reasons we brought in Comcast and New Enterprise Associates is that we were going to expand rapidly, and now we're seeing the fruits of that effort," Allen said.

On the content side, SnagFilms has added hundreds of narrative films to its library of more than 2,300 non-fiction titles. The films include classics like Josef Von Sternberg's "The Blue Angel," Luis Bunuel's "Un Chien Andalou" and D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance," as well as more recent work like Michaelangelo Antonioni's "Il Grido," Richard Linklater's "Slacker" and Wong Kar-Wai's "Happy Together." 

SnagFilms websiteSnagFilms will also offer digital premieres of lesser-known recent films featuring stars early in their careers, including "Too Young to Die" (Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis), "Women Talking Dirty" (Helena Bonham Carter) and "P.U.N.K.S." (Jessica Alba).

"We're going to have a substantial number of narrative titles, but I suspect we'll still offer more non-fiction titles for the next year, and maybe longer than that," said Allen. "We're definitely not going to stop picking up titles in the documentary field."

Additions to SnagFilms platforms will take place in a number of areas:

>> Its free streamed movies, which are currently offered on more than 110,000 website and webpage partners, from Xfinity.com, Hulu, AOL and Yahoo to blogs and Facebook pages, will expand to additional platforms and devices via Adobe Air, an app that will bring free feature films to Android-based smartphones and to Android and BlackBerry tablet platforms.

>> Its pay-window distribution of feature films will appear on DIRECTV Cinema beginning in September, adding nearly 20 million customers to a list that already included users of the Xfinity and Verizon FiOS systems, iTunes, Amazon and YouTube's Premium service.

>> SnagFilms' titles will also be available via the VUDU movie service, which was bought by WalMart in 2010, and to Xbox LIVE users through the Zune Video Marketplace.

>> And SnagFilms has made deals with Sony, Samsung and Vizio, enabling its content to be accessible on television sets built by the companies.

"There's much more to come," said Allen. "You can expect that we'll be continue to expand, to the point where we'll be everywhere that Netflix is by the end of the first quarter."

Asked if the recent struggles by Netflix gives his company more opportunities in the market, Allen declined to criticize the troubled movie-rental giant.

"We love Netflix, and we think it's run by some of the smartest guys in the industry," he said. "We've designed our offerings to be different – we're not offering subscriptions, and we're focusing entirely on the world of independent film. The more people want to watch films and get used to doing so on a range of devices and platforms, the better."

That expanded audience, he admitted, is also the key to getting SnagFilms to the point where it can provide substantial revenue to the filmmakers whose work is showcased on the site, either in ad-support free streams or pay-per-view formats.

"Last quarter, we wrote five-figure checks to a number of our partners, but not as many of them as we will in the days ahead," he said. "We've always done a tremendous job of monetizing what we do, but the problem has come in building up the number of views. As we have more platforms, and we get more content in earlier windows, that will increase the likelihood of getting a substantial number of views.

"We're ahead of where we expected to be at this point, to be honest with you," added Allen. "It's nice to have the pieces all together."