In Part 2 of this 3 part series on Ride the Divide, I examined the strategic, well executed, and successful event strategy that Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion engaged. In this third and final part, I will take a look at their merchandise and digital strategies and execution. Finally, I will touch on some of the key points that they have learned so far on this journey.

They began selling “plain vanilla” versions of their DVDs at their live events. They started selling from their online store in April just after their world premiere at Vail Film Festival (DVD, Poster, Soundtrack). To date they have grossed $55,000 from all merchandise in the on-line store (this includes around $13,000 for the screening boxes). They’ve sold 1300 DVDs and Blu-Ray through their store.

But they are not just selling from their online store – they partnered with Video Action Sports and Rep Net who buy them at between 40% and 50% of the retail price for each DVD sold – about $10.00 per DVD. They researched each of these wholesalers to make sure they were 1) getting a good deal that made financial sense and 2) that the wholesalers had good reputations for paying independent filmmakers. These distributors get the Ride the Divide DVDs into larger chains and into major on-line retailers. They’ve sold another 600 DVDs through these wholesale accounts.

I’ve encouraged them to go further with their Living Room box – to use the box package concept not for living room screenings – but as a high quality package for consumers who like to spend more to get more. You wouldn’t have to do much to re-conceptualize the package for Xmas. They can probably reconnect with their sponsors to provide a unique new combination.

Mike and Hunter pre-sold their US cable rights to the Documentary Channel in order to have the funds to finish the film. They aired the film on September 22nd. But note the smart timing – how they began their tour well in advance of this date. They were already selling DVDs and were able to benefit from a potential cable/TV bump of sales. The film went on iTunes day and date with the screening on the Documentary Channel on September 22nd. They are being featured in the Documentary page and are adding like-minded titles. New Video is handling their digital rights.

They then scheduled the rest of their digital rights within a close proximity of this airing: As pointed out in the first part of this series – they did a “stunt” free screening of the film on YouTube for the day before and day of Livestrong day (coordinating with a partner). At end of 2711 minute promotion on YouTube, they had just over 157,000 views.
They turned on YouTube rentals after that (due to the amount of traffic still coming from all the embedded trailers). As of last week, it had 165,489 views (but they are not sure how many paid rentals they have yet). They did find that the YouTube event did not generate many DVD sales – which they were hoping for (only 50 over the 2 day period).

Note how they used a limited YouTube free screening to create a sense of an on-line event. They also timed this into a natural event of one of their key sponsors – all to help launch the digital component of their release – providing another bump in the media landscape.

They also signed an agreement with Babelgum to license a 10-part episodic series of the film in 7 countries. This will be distributed online and via mobile devices.

Key Takeaways

There are a number of takeaways that Hunter has from this experience.

1. Pay attention to who your audience is – and integrate that understanding into your release.

2. Tailor an event based strategy to work with that core audience and motivate them to come to screenings.

3. Work with partner organizations to reach your audience.

4. Do deals with people you want to work with down the line – create long-term relationships for a long-term career.

5. Understand that the audience you are developing is more general than the specific core you started with. This was huge for Hunter. His film was not just about a bike race – but was about “people who were embracing a positive life style – living life in a rich way”. He was able to reach elements of this broader audience starting with his core – and this is the audience that he wants to make films for in the future.

Again thanks to Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion for their transparency and participation! Thanks also to Sheri Candler for helping to make this happen!