Pay-Per Distribution? Examining the Emergence of Subscription-based YouTube Channels


With streaming VOD services like Netflix and Hulu+ successfully dominating how we find instantly accessible entertainment, why is it that a film distribution company like Magnet Releasing has began offering their select catalog on YouTube? Some of my favorite Netflix Instant releases are distributed by the genre film-making branch of Magnolia Pictures (Gareth Edwards’ Monsters and Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In) but is the future of movie watching going to split into a studio death-match, forcing film fans to pick subscription-based sides?

It may sound surprising, but over the last year, I’ve relied on YouTube for my movie needs more times than Hulu+ and Netflix combined. The unknown borders of the world’s most popular internet video provider can be an elusive and fleeting goldmine for hard to find foreign flicks, as well as a plethora of early cinematic treats. The ‘Tube is chock full of enough standard film cannon entries that one could easily teach Film History from the comforts of his or her browser.


YouTube is quite essential for any film fan; as the constant access to trailers, interviews, film essays, documentaries, etc. can be tapped without hesitation. I was actually performing such an inquiry as I saw one of my favorite Netflix finds ever, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson advertised on my sidebar for a fee of $2.99/month. As a consistent – for better or worse – Instant Netflix subscriber, I actually took great pride in finding great unknown gems beneath the usual barrage of mindless garbage offered for months at a time. While looking through the Magnet Releasing YouTube catalog, I found a great many of these said “gems” residing next to each other in a convenient supernova of super rad flicks. Films like Kim Jee-Woon’s dark revenge thriller I Saw The Devil and Sean Ellis’s insomniatic black comedy Cashback are among this, admittedly cult, selection of streaming movies. With the Netflix Instant service amounting to four dollars more a month, does it make more sense to subscribe to a particular distributor if I enjoy the kind of films they put out?

Do I really think we should all run out to buy dry food, a generator and prepare for the immanence of a studio war? I think it may be a tad bit early to sound the alarm, as Magnet Releasing is an early front runner in this possible new trend for instantly streaming media. Another potential problem with smaller, niche studios doing this is the limited appeal for the everyday movie cruiser. I just cannot confidently say the films of Quentin Dupieux and Hitoshi Matsumoto are that accessible to just anyone. I do think that it might be a more interesting investment to cough up a monthly token of appreciation to particular studios whom may tickle your filmic fancy, but who’s to say we won’t continue to clench our Dorito-stained fists in frustration with the next provider to ensnare our credit cards.

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Tags : moviesStreaming
Spencer Churchill

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