A Blast From The Past: Why Cult Classics And Older Titles Are Seeing A Resurgence On OTT

This story first appeared as a guest article on www.VideoInk.com, a leading news publication covering the online video space. 


Film and TV content has never been more accessible. With the click of a button, over-the-top (OTT) subscribers have thousands of titles to choose from – covering just about every genre imaginable. However, there is something that’s been missing from major streaming services: old classics. Netflix, for example, only boasts 22 titles released before 1960, and Hulu just features 17 movies and shows released prior to the date.


For film historians and classic movie buffs, this can be troubling. “What worries film aficionados is that the rise of mass-market streaming will sap coming generations of their interest in classic films, which will, in turn, discourage those services and the studios themselves from continuing to invest in their century-old patrimony,” writes the Associated Press.


However, it’s not all doom and gloom. If done right, it can be argued that the very essence of OTT can bring older titles back into the spotlight and aid in discoverability, helping classic content be enjoyed for years to come. Here’s what can help fuel the resurgence:


Tech companies are creating turnkey solutions to help smaller players put content online


Before streaming services, old classics and cult hits were forever banned to flea markets, the back of video stores, and late night broadcasts. But this wasn’t because no one wanted to watch them.


For producers, it was always too expensive to take older – and sometimes more obscure content – and develop a channel to broadcast it on. Building a cable channel is end-to-end, meaning there’s licensing, production costs, and satellite uplink services to consider, in addition to much more. In fact, building a managing and platform can cost up to $1 million a year. It’s a price most smaller players in the business wouldn’t be able to afford.


But now, technology companies are making it easy and inexpensive for producers or owners to put their content online. A turnkey OTT solution costs about $75,000 per year to maintain – making it much simpler for smaller players to bring classic films, TV shows and cult titles into the spotlight.


The Film Detective, for example, is a one-stop shop for classic and cult films, which searches the world for classic movies and returns them to their original, crisp image. While the service has been up and running since 1999, when films were restored and delivered to broadcast platforms like NBC and Turner Classic Movies, The Film Detective now has a classic movie application for Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku. Over 3,000 pieces have been remastered.


OTT makes it easier for viewers to find content – and better targets them, too


With the rise of technology-based libraries, vast collections of obscure and old content are becoming much easier to access. Again: instead of viewers having to comb through flea markets to find their favorite flicks, now with on-demand app and websites, they just need to type in a few keywords to find the content they’re looking for.


Consider the OTT platform FilmStruck, for example. Launched in 2016 by Turner Classic Movies, it features a huge library of solely classic, rare, foreign, and independent pieces that viewers can easily access. In February, it was reported that the company closed a deal with Warner Bros, which would stock FilmStruck’s library with upward of 600 classic films from the entertainment company each month.


And unlike TV, OTT also enables content owners to better target their audiences. As opposed to traditional Nielsen Ratings – which measure audience size only – OTT channels can take advantage of digital data tracking capabilities to reel in even more classical and cult film fanatics – and identify potential viewers based on their searches, location, watch-time, and other specific data to target the audience effectively. CBS All Access, for example, has been heavily promoting its I Love Lucy content to capture even more superfans in on all major OTT platforms.


What could this mean for the production industry?


Well, it gives a chance for producers and content owners to monetize their content once again – even if it’s more obscure. The company Filmhub, for example, acts as a distribution market for filmmakers and enables both indie creators and major catalog owners to promote their content via platforms like Amazon and Hulu and create digital revenue around it. While Filmhub is still in beta, one could imagine how the platform could empower both producers of old classics, but also smaller producers of more unique genres – such as Film Noir, Classic Cartoons, or Silents.


And as older classics have the potential to gain more visibility through OTT, this could also lead to more remakes. Just like Netflix has remade cult classic “Twin Peaks” and family classic “Full House” (the Netflix version is Fuller House), shining a spotlight on older classics could open the door for remakes of the more obscure films and TV Shows. For this to work in the favor of the classic film industry, however, the originals would also have to be highly promoted so as not to be forgotten after the shiny ‘new’ content begins to be publicized.


It’s true that if OTT platforms don’t step up to promote old classics, the content will likely – and sadly – be forgotten in the decades to come. However, OTT platforms that put an emphasis on supporting classic films can help breathe new life into the content, attract new audiences, and ultimately, keep it alive.


Learn how Unreel is helping take content owner’s films and video libraries onto OTT here!

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