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Film institute streaming service gets anniversary makeover

Wednesday, November 5th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

The British Film Institute’s on-demand video service is a “game changer” for the organisation, according to its head of digital.

Edward Humphrey said that the BFI Player streaming service is changing the dynamic of the whole institute.

The charity today also announced that, one year on from its launch, the on-demand service has received a dramatic makeover.

As well as a new look, more content has been made available, including a new catalogue of films from Universal Pictures, including ET and the Back To The Future series.

More than 1,400 films are on offer – 60% are free, with paid-for “premium content” making up 40% of the catalogue.

Mr Humphrey, director of digital at the BFI, told Cable.co.uk: “When we launched last year Greg Dyke our chair said he thought this was the biggest thing that BFI had done since it opened the National Film Theatre.

“Game-changer is a phrase that we’re quite confident applying to BFI Player.

“It really starts to change the dynamic of the whole organisation.”

He added: “We’re not restricted by how many screens we have or how many DVDs we can distribute.

“We have an opportunity to show literally thousands of films at any time.

“For us what BFI Player does is it gives us a place and a space.”

He said the service had helped the organisation “unlock” its national archive by providing a platform for the huge film and television collection.

Mr Humphrey said they have around 40 deals with third-party distributors, and were not given any favourable terms over other platforms, saying: “It’s really our ability to unlock the rights that the BFI already had but found it difficult to find a platform for.

“Of the films within the national archive that we own, our route to market used to be occasionally they would be on television or would be released on DVD.

“The purpose of BFI Player is to provide a platform for them.

“Before the advent of BFI Player we had and we still have a very popular YouTube channel but that services a particular audience and we wanted to create a place where the audience could immerse themselves in the BFI national archive.

“That’s one of the things we really want BFI Player to stand for.

“It’s that place where you can go to really immerse yourself.”

He added: “I sometimes describe it as ‘new reasons to watch old films’

“The term ‘old films’ can sound pejorative but it’s the idea that we’re giving people new reasons to watch films that are already there.”

Mr Humphrey said the BFI Player allows the institute to reach out to: younger audiences with “different consumption patterns”, geographically-dispersed viewers, the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) audience, tying in packages of films with the institute’s LGBT Festival Flare.

The service also allows the BFI to focus on seasons such as this year’s Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder, which will see the BFI Player dedicated throughout November to some of the best science-fiction films ever created.

Mr Humphrey said the service has also allowed the BFI to group the sci-fi content into three strands focusing on different themes, something it can do with future film seasons.

Looking to the BFI Player’s future, he said: “We’re constantly listening to audiences to see how we can add to the experience and help audiences to explore and discover.

“We’re never going to reach an end point where we will say, ‘that’s done’.”

Prices for premium content range from just £1 for shorts with features starting at £2.50 and a range of titles released day-and-date with cinemas priced at up to £10. Viewers will have 30 days to watch their purchase and a 48-hour window to re-watch movies once they are first viewed.

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