On Tuesday, Vimeo announced Vimeo On Demand, its new self-distribution service, once again proving that Vimeo is a place that is keenly in tune to the filmmaking world. From this initial launch, the service is already pretty impressive: it is available on all Vimeo Pro accounts, allows users to watch films on almost any device, including tablets and TVs connected through products like Apple TV, Roku and Xbox, etc. More importantly, the new service lets creators distribute a series of videos at one total price as well as individual episode prices, and gives creators 90% of the revenue from sales. Yes, that is not a typo — 90% of the cut goes into the filmmaker’s pocket.

On Wednesday, I talked with Blake Whitman, VP of Creative Development at Vimeo, and asked him what would bring filmmakers to this self-distribution service over others. What does Vimeo have that others don’t, besides the very impressive payout deal? His answer can be summed up in two words: flexibility and ease.

Vimeo On Demand lets the filmmaker take the helm of their distribution, rather than limiting who can use the service and what they can do once they’re in. Again, anyone with a Pro account can self-distribute, no questions asked. Secondly, the only requirements for creating your VOD page are that you have a trailer and a poster — which you should already have if you are planning to make a film that you want people to see. Vimeo On Demand also lets the filmmaker, who has now become the distributor, set the rental and download prices, choose the length of the rental period, set geofilters so that you can offer it in only the parts of the world you wish to. You can create a custom VOD page which then can be used free of any Vimeo branding at your own URL, if you so wish to make it seem separate. And just to tack on more, self-distributors can also feature extra content on their landing pages, such as short clips, deleted scenes, and director commentary, if they already have those uploaded to Vimeo.

The flexibility that Vimeo On Demand offers the creators plays into how easy it is to use. Since its inception, Vimeo has catered to filmmakers, providing a clean interface, quality playback, and an easy upload process that even the most technologically challenged can take advantage of. Vimeo has also boasted having a support team that is more than willing to help answer questions or troubleshoot with users. More importantly, and as Whitman stressed, filmmakers already use Vimeo to power video on their sites, store trailers and clips for promotion, and share videos with each other. If you can keep all your video in one place, including your self-distributed final product, why wouldn’t you?

From the filmmaker’s side, Vimeo On Demand seems like a great self-distribution tool, that really has a chance to keep fueling creative work. But what about the audience? The online world has always known Vimeo as a place for free content, so what will draw them into this new paid-content world? When asked about this, Whitman responded, “From the success of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, we have seen that there is an audience out there that wants to feel involved in supporting creative work, and supporting the creators themselves. Vimeo on Demand plays into that, letting viewers directly support the filmmakers on VOD, while also giving them a chance to connect with filmmakers. Audience members could even directly message the filmmakers and start a conversation through Vimeo if they connect with the creators story… This is not for the audience that wants a passive viewing experience.” What struck me was the emphasis on the “engaged” audience here, which is something all independent documentaries try to cultivate. If all goes according to plan, this could become a self-distribution service that truly plays into the engagement factor, and lets filmmakers and viewers connect around issues in a much more streamlined manner.

It will be fun to watch how Vimeo on Demand unfolds over the next few months, and see what changes and new features are added as more filmmakers jump into using it. It makes me also wonder what self-distribution services it will start to displace. What about you? What is your take on Vimeo on Demand? Are any of you already using it? Let us know in the comments below!

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Sean started as an intern with POV in 2009, before coming on-board as a staff member starting in 2010 until 2013. At POV, he managed online video content, produced companion features for the POV film websites, and implemented social media strategies. Prior to joining POV in 2010, he freelanced as a film editor and writer, in addition to working as an assistant for an independent music artist. He has written and directed several short, experimental films, and holds a bachelor's degree from Brown University in Literary Arts.