Among the more interesting new paid YouTube channels of the 30 unveiled today are the ones belonging to indie film distributors leading the charge into untested digital and outside-the-box models. Cinedigm relaunched their Docurama brand in April with a library of 1,250 documentary features, also plotting a streaming app for launch this spring which would make more than 150 Docurama titles available for free on multiple devices. Their new curated Docurama YouTube channel could similarly boost digital niche moviewatching and carve a path for other distributors and filmmakers exploring alternative distribution online. For $2.99 a month, users will get access to Docurama’s playlist of docu features and bonus materials refreshed each week, with 25% of those feature offerings being new or recent releases. (All of YouTube’s new premium channels will first launch with a 14-day free trial.) The ambitious growth plan set in motion last year under Cinedigm CEO Chris McGurk so far has also included a plan to help outfit drive-in theaters with digital projectors and last month’s Arthur Newman BitTorrent experiment.
Also launching film content via YouTube subscription is Gravitas Ventures, whose Gravitas Movies channel premieres with 75 movies available in HD for $4.99 per month. Indie features on offer at launch include the SXSW docu American: The Bill Hicks Story; Sundance pic Ballast; Zach Galifianakis-produced docu Craigslist Joe; and indie comedy The Perfect Family starring Kathleen Turner, Emily Deschanel, and Jason Ritter. Gravitas will add 10-15 new titles each month to its rotation. Magnet Releasing and ScreamPix are among the few other movie-focused channels launching today, while Roger Corman will unspool his Corman’s Drive-In channel this summer tapping his library of 400+ genre pics.
Meanwhile another film-centric channel, BIGSTAR Movies, is onto something with its programming. One of its first titles, the infamous Katherine Heigl-starring bomb Zyzzyx Road, has already gotten seven views within the first half-hour of the channel’s launch — that’s at least a few more viewers than the film got when it opened to a paltry $30 in theaters in 2006.
It will be interesting to see whether the movie and TV channels can (or plan to) compete against the likes of other subscription-based services like Netflix and Hulu, which might cost more per month but are one-stop shops compared to YouTube’s niche offerings that must be subscribed to separately.