Imagine attending the world’s film festivals and hobnobbing with fellow cinephiles without moving from your armchair, and you’ve got the idea behind a Web site called Jaman.com.
Jaman.com wants to match the 56 million people who live in the United States but were born elsewhere or speak a language other than English with deserving but little-known foreign films that probably won’t make it to U.S. megaplexes.
Their strategy runs counter to that of online movie download services recently launched by major media retailers like Apple Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which plan to offer consumers a wide swath of content from major Hollywood studios.
But while the majors struggle with tangled distribution agreements for those films, Jaman.com has forged alliances with the film festival organizers for more than 1,000 titles that filmmakers are eager to share.
“There is an absolute market for niche content on the Internet,” said Josh Bernoff, principal analyst with the Forrester Group. “That video that otherwise would not have had an audience because the audience is too small … they are connecting it up on the Internet.”
Revenue from downloaded videos grew from $11 million in 2005 to $111 million last year, but still accounts for only a fraction of the $25 billion in DVD and video consumption in 2006, according to the “Video on the Internet Report” by Adams Media Research.
Launched in February as a test, Jaman.com is the brainchild of Gaurav Dhillon, a film junkie and founder of San Francisco-area software provider Informatica Corp., and Carlos Montalvo, a former Apple executive who developed video and streaming media software for them. The final version of the site will be available to the public in March.
The seeds of Jaman.com took root during a yearlong sabbatical Dhillon made after taking Informatica public and stepping down as CEO three years later in 2004. Upon his return, he was frustrated to find that the films and music he had soaked up during his travels were not available in the United States.
Dhillon raised about $4.5 million from Dhillon Capital — a fund created he created to invest in start-ups — and other investors to start the site, whose mission is to bring to audiences the 99 percent of the world’s movies that populate film festivals but never find U.S. distribution.
“Some of the best award-winning films from around the world have not been able to penetrate what is arguably the largest entertainment market,” Montalvo, senior vice president of operations at Jaman.com, said.
The company plans on doing “grass-roots marketing” in foreign-born U.S. communities to get users on the site, where they can write reviews, network with like-minded viewers and even add a text track to the films, a la “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
In addition to scouring the world’s film festivals for content, Jaman.com invites independent filmmakers to submit material.
Movies are streamed from a high-definition player on the site for $1.99 for rental, and $4.99 for purchase. The downloadable player works on both Macintosh and Microsoft Windows operating systems.
“In many ways we have created a film festival that never ends — meeting new friends and through them discovering new movies,” Dhillon said.
Where Jaman.com and other niche content providers may run into trouble is in convincing users to pay for content.
“It’s especially difficult if you want to charge,” Bernoff said.
But Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the independent Enderle Group, said the paid content model has worked for niche providers, especially among communities that can’t get their content elsewhere.
“We’ve seen this before in … satellite services dealing with expatriates who wanted local programming (from their countries of origin),” Enderle said. “They were perfectly willing to pay a lot of money to get one of those big dishes to pull that down.”
|copyright © 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.|