An Open Letter from OVID Director and Icarus Films president Jonathan Miller

Reprinted from metafilm

“We are sharing, in what we think is an unprecedented step for the film and media business (why is a worthy subject for another day), as much data and information as we are able to push through about OVID’s content, usage and membership”

Reprinted from metafilm

In September, 2019 I wrote to everyone on the Icarus Films email list about how I saw the media landscape, particularly for independent films, documentaries and global cinema, and why – in that context – we launched OVID.tv.

Not to belabor the obvious but a lot has changed since then.
If anything I understated, I under-appreciated how much the “digital landscape” would change, because while we saw correctly the trends of declining DVD sales and the move to online viewing, corporate consolidation, and the launching of new large streaming services, amongst others, we did not foresee how they would accelerate, particularly with the arrival of COVID-19.

And like most things this has been a double-edged sword.

While more people became, and we know are, interested in OVID and in watching our content, the competitive landscape and choices that people have to make, about time and money, is exponentially more crowded and difficult than we anticipated.

That said OVID has persevered and grown, across various measures. While slowly and slower perhaps than we need in the long-run our membership numbers go up consistently, every week we gain more subscribers than we lose. Likewise the amount of usage (viewing) of our films grows. And we now have available a library of 1,000 titles, almost twice as many as a year ago, and continue to add 20 to 40 new films every month. And unlike most services we seldom remove any title from the service, so our collection grows richer and deeper with more choices available, every week.

However one aspect of our founding principles—theory, behind what we want to do and why we think it may succeed—we have not been able to adequately address until, we hope, now.

That is, we have always thought that for OVID to succeed, and conversely why it ought to succeed, it should be part of a vibrant community, part of a movement even. Of like-minded or interested people, dissatisfied with the usual offerings (algorithms) of major media companies, and looking for and committed to artistically adventurous, alternative visions and engaged socially-conscious filmmaking.

But to be part of such a multi-faceted community, to help spur such a movement and build the alternative media eco-system I wrote about a year ago, requires more than just launching a new SVOD service and saying “look at us,” no matter how worthy it may be.

It requires a commitment to trust. To sharing, discussion, debate, transparency and openness.

Which is why I am glad that we are today able to announce the launch of OVID’s new companion blog OVID.tv: metafilm (metafilm.ovid.tv).

Where, amongst other things we are sharing, in what we think is an unprecedented step for the film and media business (why is a worthy subject for another day), as much data and information as we are able to push through about OVID’s content, usage and membership, i.e. anonymous but accurate subscriber information and trends.

We want everyone to know how we are doing, what we are thinking, what our plans are, the obstacles that we might encounter, and most of all we would like to engage with everyone (ok, as feasible! – there are only 4 of us working here) with ideas about the films on OVID, what we do and how we can do it better. And about how we can help build with supporters and members of OVID, as well as interested critics, producers, distributors and filmmakers, a vibrant space for challenging the corporate media giants, fostering an environment of and for alternative voices and visions.

So please check-out OVID.tv: metafilm, read some of our notes there about the initial data and information being revealed, and commentaries and videos on the films that you can watch on OVID, and join us in the next step of our common trek. 

Jonathan Miller
Director, OVID.tv