nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Surviving the collapse of the DVD market

US home entertainment spending 2011-2017

The Film Detective got its start restoring old films and distributing them through DVDs to mass retailers. Now the service is successfully transitioning online. Here’s how it happened.

nScreenMedia is launching a new series of short white papers that look at how service owners translate a passion for the video content into the reality of the technological environment. Each paper tells the story of the service, discusses the challenges encountered in building it, and reveals the problem solutions that paved the way to success. The series is called Building a Video Business, and the first in the series is The Film Detective – A Passion for Classic Films.

Adapting to disruptive change

The Film Detective logoThe Film Detective built its business on restoring old films and distributing them on DVDs through mass retailers. Like any business, it was a struggle, but by the mid-2000s the company was thriving.  Unfortunately, things started to change nine years ago, according to company Founder and CEO Philip Hopkins.

In 2011, US consumers spent $14 billion to purchase and rent DVDs and Blu-ray disks. By 2017 the market had declined 51%, to $6.8 billion. Over the same period, the market for digital movies and shows has increased 240%, from $4 billion to $13.7 billion.

Rather than seeing this as a disaster, Mr. Hopkins saw it as an opportunity. To create the DVDs the old movies first had to be restored and then digitized. By 2008, The Film Detective had a library of thousands of hours of classic movies already digitized, at exactly the time companies such as Netflix and Hulu were crying out for quality content.

The Film Detective screensAccording to Mr. Hopkins:

“Most of the studios would not participate because there were no revenue guarantees that they were comfortable with.”

The reluctance of studios allowed his company to step in and curate and manage content for of the new SVOD services, and even launch the first Hulu channel in 2008.

Finding the online audience

Having a great digital library is only the start of creating a successful business. The Film Detective has had to overcome many challenges, but none so important as finding the audience online. Luckily, the service has benefited from the extraordinary growth of social media.

The service now has 40,000 social followers and is leveraging those relationships to market the service to film fans everywhere. It is also using the social chatter around the service and movies to keep the experience fresh for subscribers. These factors are critical to the success of The Film Detective, according to Mr. Hopkins:

“There’s premium new content that Hollywood produces but then, in the world of everything else, you have to be really focused on your specific niche, but you also have to have the ability to market and promote.”

There is lots more to tell about how The Film Detective is building a successful online business. Download the full free paper to learn more, including how the company is building its funnel of potential subscribers, and why it decided not to support all of the major TV-connected devices.

Thanks to Zype for sponsoring the creation of this series of papers.


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