“We believe that film exhibitors and streaming platforms should work closely together”
Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming
Philipp Hoffmann • Founder, Kino on Demand
The founder and managing director of German outfit Rushlake Media told us why their streaming service may be beneficial for cinemagoers and exhibitors
Cineuropa had the opportunity to chat with Philipp Hoffmann, founder and managing director of Cologne-based firm Rushlake Media. In particular, our conversation revolved around the company’s own streaming service, Kino on Demand. The platform’s groundbreaking business strategy exploits the comfort of VoD consumption while offering incentives to cinemagoers and exhibitors.
Cineuropa: When did you establish your firm? What type of services do you provide?
Philipp Hoffmann: Rushlake Media was founded back in 2013. We started as a sales company with a focus on the digital market and later, in 2015, we kicked off a side project, our own streaming service called Kino on Demand. Over time, we developed a division focused on sourcing high-quality African titles. We also have an office in Nairobi, which counts three staff. Kino on Demand, however, remains our flagship project in the digital market. Initially, it was a service aimed at helping exhibitors. The idea was to provide local audiences with an additional VOD programme, which would expand their usual offering. We helped them to implement mini-players to promote our VOD offering on their websites, for example. As of today, Kino on Demand is steadfastly growing as a TVOD service and we operate in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Our USP is proximity to cinemas. Thus, users who regularly stream films on Kino on Demand would regularly get vouchers, which they could redeem at their local cinema. We basically provide users with incentives to go back to cinema. Each user automatically receives a €5 voucher with their first streaming transaction and then again on every fifth transaction. Viewers can choose among 750 partner cinemas across Germany.
What is the main challenge in implementing this type of business model?
We believe that film exhibitors and streaming platforms should work closely together. After all, we’re talking about films for cinema, and films without cinema do not work, right? You always need the big screen. I think there should be no competition between films aimed at theatrical release and those available on streaming platforms. Our real competitors should be TV series, social media and video games, while films should be part of a single market. The current internal competition is based on outdated industry structures. That is definitely one important challenge to tackle. It’s been a crucial question asked by several industry players, even before the coronavirus outbreak. However, I think it goes without saying that COVID-19 has changed a lot for things. As soon as cinemas shut down, the digital market became our main focus. Perhaps we’re not offering the ultimate solution, but at least we’re providing an option for cinema owners to stay in touch with their audience. I tend to compare our activities to those of a local restaurant. Let’s assume you have your favourite restaurant, somewhere in your neighbourhood. You normally go there, eat great food, enjoy the atmosphere, the staff is friendly, you meet up with some friends and so on... But if you need to stay home, you can also pick up the food there or have it delivered. It’s still the same great food, but you’re not enjoying the same experience. This idea applies to films as well. I might have many reasons why I can’t go to the cinema on a particular day. I need to take care of my child or maybe I’m sick, or I might not have time for whatever reason... But I still want to see those films. I don’t want to be excluded just because I cannot go to the cinema. Does that mean that I won’t go back to the cinema at all? Of course not. Whenever possible, I’ll go there again and enjoy that different experience.
What type of films do you include in your line-up?
I think the easiest way to define our line-up is “non-studio content.” And, of course, we have a very strong arthouse “footprint.” We have agreements with all the most important German independent distributors, but we do include some mainstream titles as well, such as Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen.
Are you planning to expand outside of the DACH region?
We’re already partnering with rather similar services in other countries, for example La Toile in France – which is actually based on our technological infrastructure – but also with Picl in the Netherlands and Nettkino in Norway. We’re in talks with firms from other territories as well. Besides, our platform is made of our proprietary technology so we occasionally offer it “white-label” to festivals and institutions.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes. It may be a bit banal to say, but I think we’re all waiting for cinemas to be open again. No doubt about that. However, after reopening we won’t be suddenly back to the 2019 scenario. I mean that the landscape will have dramatically changed. How will the film industry – as a whole – address that situation? I think that’s the most critical question we have to face. Hopefully, we at Kino on Demand will provide a positive answer.
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