Multiplatform, Simultaneous Release Augurs Distribution Upheaval

"We The Economy," a bundle of 20 short films, will debut simultaneously next Tuesday, Oct. 21 on cable, broadcast, online and mobile platforms, including Comcast's Xfinity TV, Time Warner Cable, Cox, BrightHouse, Mediacom and Suddenlink.

The free programs will also be available via mobile apps from CNBC, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video. The series of movies - each about five to eight minutes long - will have a sneak preview at Landmark Theaters in 20 cities on Monday, Oct. 20 at 7 pm.

Using a variety of formats - comedy, musical, documentary/non-fiction, scripted and animation -  the movies are intended to explain or present ideas about aspects of "the economy." Topics include the role of government, gloabalization, financial inequality along with more basic topics, such as "What is Money?"  Most of the productions were created by prominent filmmakers, including Morgan Spurlock (who spearheaded the project), Catherine Hardwicke (director of Twilight), Adam McKay (Anchorman), James Schamus (Crouching Tiber, Hidden Dragon), Oscar-winning documentary-maker Barbara Kopple, and Adrian Grenier (actor and producer, best known for his role in HBO's Entourage series).  

Nearly a dozen "advisors" (economists, historians, academics, journalists) are credited with supporting the productions.

Spurlock's Cinelan studio teamed with Paul Allen's Vulcan Productions to create and distribute the shows, which will also be available on demand.  

"We immediately agreed to take the normal distribution model and smash it to pieces," Spurlock told a Hollywood trade publication.  "No windows, no fees, just get it to the public."  He said his major goal was to put "these films simultaneously in front of every American wherever they watch content."

On the We The Economy website, Spurlock further explained the format, especially how differently it deals with a topic that would normally be very dry and straightforward."

Altogether, more than 50 media platforms will carry the shows. Among the participating companies are CBS News, Cox and Verizon VOD services, Sony's Crackle, Apple's iTunes, AOL's On Network, GooglePlay and SnagFilms. Financial details - especiallynding resources for the productions - were not released.

The Spurlock/Allen collaboration comes at a time when media companies are experimenting with a variety of co-ventures.  For example, Fusion recently teamed with Maker Studioto create a block of short-form video that will run on the Fusion network. 

Amidst the distribution tumult - such as simultaneous day-and-date release on multiple platforms and the viability of short-form productions - We The Economy could become a significant test bed for future content creation and presentation.  

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.