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AFM Panel Discusses Future of Finance in Digital World

“Now is a really good time to be a content owner,” thanks to the growth of digital distribution outlets, said Ryan Kavanaugh, CEO of Relativity Media.

Kavanaugh was speaking Friday at a film finance summit, organized by the American Film Market.

“There has been significant change in the past 12 months. Demand for product exceeds supply due to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Microsoft X-Box and so on, which are all looking for unique product, with $40-$100 billion checkbooks,” Kavanaugh said. “As we see it, digital has grown the profitability of the business beyond the DVD era.”

Studios may see it differently. Their “dirty little secret,” according to Kavanaugh, is that their pay TV deals preclude them from selling digital rights during the pay TV window.

Panelists were also positive about the trends in TV and their impact on the film business. “From a content point of view this is a golden age for television,” said Mark Canton, the chairman and CEO of Atmosphere Entertainment.

Kavanaugh demonstrated that “underperforming” movies can be given new life on TV and pointed to the example of “Catfish.” The film did some $5 million at the box office, but was very popular with 15- to 21-year-olds. “That wasn’t enough for a sequel, but was enough for cable TV. … We had so much data on it (from digital distribution) that was way more than any pilot, and we could take it to MTV.” It’s proven to be on of the cabler’s most popular series.

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