Constellation.tv combines social marketing with video-on-demand
In early 2011 the video-on-demand platform Constellation.tv was launched – by its own account the “first global movie theatre”. What’s special about the platform is that films cannot be booked round the clock, but are instead only streamed on a certain day at a set time. The result is fixed screenings for live audiences, just like at the real cinema. After an online screening, viewers can take part in live discussions on the film.
A joint discussion of a particular film would not be possible without set screening times. But that’s not the only reason for this model. In fact, it also allows Constellation to cleverly conjoin video-on-demand with social marketing methods in order to increase viewer numbers and revenues. Visitors to the page are encouraged to invite their friends to join them in watching an online film “screened” on Constellation.
Those interested in a particular film or programme are offered a discount for getting their friends to watch the film by contacting them via email, Facebook or Twitter. The ticket price ($3.99 for feature-length and $2.99 for short films) drops by 10 cents for every successful invitation. The discount is capped, however, meaning that even the most industrious message-spreaders cannot simply view the film for free. They have to pay Constellation at least 50% of the admission price.
With a further gimmick Constellation is trying to win over not only film fans, but also the makers of the films. Filmmakers, producers or other rights holders can rent the virtual cinema and act as host or moderator in the ensuing discussion. This is one way for the films’ authors to draw attention to their work. And they can be relied on to try to drum up as many paying guests for their screenings as possible.
In mid-August, for example, the virtual cinema was booked by the American distributor of the documentary “Jig”. The film on Irish Dance, produced by the BBC Scotland, was presented daily one week long on Constellation.tv. The director and protagonists (dancers) were brought in as guests via chat and webcam. The eTicket price for this exclusive VIP screening was a steep $9.99. Nearly 60 viewers “attended” the premiere, but fewer than ten reservations were made for the presentations on subsequent days.
In addition to renting out its virtual cinema, Constellation also organizes its own screenings. Every Sunday evening, for example, viewers can take in the series “Quality Films” with Amos Poe, who personally presents a film classic followed by a commentary or discussion. Recent features were “Rashomon”, “L’Eclisse”, “L’Avventura”, “The Battle of Algiers” and “Woman in the Dunes”.
Constellation is furthermore hosting an “online film festival” from 1 October to 31 December 2011. Participating filmmakers will receive 60% of ticket sales. The virtual viewers will be asked to rate the films. On the basis of these ratings, multiplied by the number of tickets sold, a winner will be determined, who will receive $10,000 in prize money. Submissions can be made exclusively via Withoutabox.
Constellation TV, with headquarters in New York and Los Angeles, was founded by film producers James Lawler and Reid Carolin. James Lawler has made primarily documentaries, and last year produced a 3D short film called “Archangel”. He was previously a trader at Merrill Lynch. Reid Carolin is a producer and filmmaker. His works include the short film “Building One House” for the non-profit Red Feather Development Group, of which he is a member.