It’s that time of year when all of the writers, directors, and creative talent get excited about the pending award nominations. This is when the Hollywood marketing teams step up and push to have as many critical reviews shared about the projects they are promoting. One of the big investments in this process are screeners. Beautifully packaged DVD’s sent off to voting members of the academy and associated guilds. Managing, organizing, and distributing publicity screeners isn’t an easy job. Although the industry has taken “baby steps” towards a digital shift, most studio marketing departments still rely on DVD screeners for publicity channels. For many movie studios and television networks, ensuring that publicity screeners are delivered in the most consistent, cost-effective, and straightforward method is a constant challenge.

Why make the change? - Costs
One of the greatest challenges studios and networks are faced with in managing a screener program are the rising costs. The process of producing and distributing DVDs isn’t cheap. For example, during awards season, studios and networks are expected to mail upwards of 70,000+ screeners every year, and this number is expected to rise considering membership in guilds is increasing.

Take into account all of the added costs in distributing DVD screeners–disc production, fulfilling orders, shipping (most likely overnight express) and added watermarking to protect against piracy and it’s becomes clear why costs can quickly climb into six figures.

On top of rising costs, there are numerous “hidden” risks associated with traditional DVD screeners, most notably the challenge of piracy. In a recent report from MUSO, an anti-piracy technology firm based in London, nearly 63 billion accounts of television content piracy were documented worldwide in 2016, up from 45 billion in 2015. HBO, the Walt Disney Co. and Netflix have all dealt with security breaches that saw their content leaked online for the world to download.

How to improve on Security?
By diving into how DVD screener programs are traditionally processed and distributed, it is easy to see how the risk of piracy continues to grow year after year. First, it is difficult to track all of the physical DVDs sent out to various publicity outlets. Sending screeners on a disc via any third-party delivery service runs the risk of the discs getting lost or “misplaced.” Just think about it, do you know who is handling your screener once it is dropped off with a delivery service and, eventually, at its final destination?

Entertainment agents alone have hundreds of publicity screeners stacked up on their desks. Once your screener is delivered successfully to its end destination, who handles the screener or views the content? This process is incredibly difficult to track and in the long run it could potentially be costly if the material ends up on the internet. Besides, physical DVD screeners last forever, and there’s no guarantee where the content will end up once it is viewed. Once the DVD’s pile up, who makes sure these copies are destroyed properly and not simply given away to “get rid of the clutter”. From a business perspective, this is a difficult challenge for any studio or network to track and mitigate.

Is Viewing Quality Important?
Another challenge that continues to be present in delivering pre-release screener content is viewing quality. With the rise of many HD streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, digital viewing quality has significantly improved over the years. In turn, distributing screener content on DVDs means sacrificing content. DVD content will forever be “trapped” in a certain quality, most likely being low-resolution standard definition. For higher quality options, such as HDR Blu-ray, cost remains high and adds more to overhead to the marketing expenses.

As studios and networks continue to produce new content at a rapid pace, it will become increasingly essential to navigate from the traditional physical DVD screener model to a proven and robust digital approach. Indeed, a fully digital approach to managing pre-release content distribution will provide a broad-ranging publicity network comprised of publicists, television shows, distributors, and content creators the best combination of cost-effectiveness, efficiency and most importantly peace-of-mind.

PIX, part of the X2X Media Group, has provided digital publicity network screener services to the leading studios and television networks for well over ten years and understands that security, speed, and efficiency are of the utmost importance to our clients. PIX’s publicity screener network, consists of over 2,500 users who are journalists and bloggers, talk show and entertainment producers, and asset owners to the MPAA for all internal reviews. All users benefit from a digital solution that eliminates the time needed to produce physical DVDs, courier fees, and the uncertainty of compromised content.

Time for a change?
There’s no question that a continued shift to a digitally based platform is the next step in the challenging world of delivering pre-release content, but it’s important to consider that the digital delivery solution checks off all the critical boxes before making the change.

That’s why the PIX platform offers flexible item permissions that let you control who can view, edit, delete, download, and administer an item. Finally, look for a solution that streamlines the process and saves you time and that can address what happens to your content after viewing. Files that time-out after being viewed provide yet another layer of security. For example, with the PIX platform you can ensure that your screeners or content are made available for a pre-determined period, whether it is a week, month, or year. It is also vital to ensure that your solution can provide the option to send a private and password protected viewing link.

PIX’s playlist feature allows the marketing department to group together related files to share across different network nominated shows or users, thus making the process of setting up and disseminating screeners much more accessible. Making the shift from packaged DVD screeners to a digital pre-release publicity content management and communication solution can seem daunting, but that doesn’t mean it has to create more challenges in delivering and securing your content. With the PIX platform we make it easy to make the transition and we believe provide a better vehicle for marketing content and screeners for the award season.

It’s a challenging time in our industry at present with Covid-19 limiting access to theaters and driving content viewing towards OTT streaming services but technology continues to make considerable impacts on how we create, view and distribute content. More studios and networks are embracing the technological advantages of digital screeners and reaping the benefits of secure solutions, streamlined processes and considerable cost savings. PIX is proud to be at the forefront of providing innovative content management solutions and will continue to work with our clients and partners to ensure the most cost efficient and secure applications in a fast-paced, constantly changing industry.

A version of this article originally appeared in M&E Journal.

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