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Building Up Indie Cred

DirecTV is looking to draw movie fans to its “DirecTV Cinema” video-on-demand service by acquiring exclusive VOD rights to mostly independent films prior to their theatrical releases.

Through its “DirecTV Cinema Exclusive” program, the satellite-TV provider has offered its 20 million subscribers more than 40 exclusive films that have debuted on VOD 30 days before they hit theaters. The most recent title, Mississippi Grind, is available now through Sept. 23, ahead of its theatrical release on Sept. 25.

The drama, about a journey involving two flawed-but-likable gamblers, stars Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline), Ryan Reynolds (Woman in Gold), Sienna Miller (American Sniper), Analeigh Tipton (Warm Bodies), Robin Weigert (Sons of Anarchy) and Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave). DirecTV subscribers can rent the movie for 72 hours in 1080p HD (comparable to Blu-ray format) for $12.99, and in standard-definition (SD) for $11.99.

Typically, DirecTV Cinema VOD film releases range from $4.99 to $7.99.

Films like Mississippi Grind provide DirecTV with quality titles that help build its brand among movie fans, DirecTV senior director for Digital & Emerging Markets Hanny Patel said. Other VOD-movie distributors such as In Demand and Vubiquity also offer independent studio films prior to their theatrical debuts, but DirecTV said it believes the exclusivity sets the provider, recently acquired by AT&T, apart from competitors.

Titles offered through DirecTV Cinema Exclusives — which hopes to offer DirecTV subscribers one new exclusive film each month— perform three to four times better than the average indie title, Patel said, although he would not disclose specific numbers.

Even though early-window VOD films have proved to generate higher buys than films offered within the traditional on-demand window, Patel said the day that major studios offer big, blockbuster films ahead of or day-and-date with their release to theaters is still a ways away.

“I don’t really see this happening in the near future with a big, high-profile film, but we are always looking for great films to bring to our customers and would be very interested in this idea,” he said.