The Ins and Outs of Educational Distribution Part 4: What Is a Distribution Window and Why Is It Significant?

POSTED ON June 12, 2018 / IN Documentary Toolkit


Steven C. Beer, Jake Levy and Neil J. Rosini

This Q&A was originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Documentary magazine, a publication of the International Documentary Association, a nonprofit media arts organization based in Los Angeles.

A distribution window is a specific time period during which certain media rights can be exclusively exploited. With respect to educational rights, sales agents prefer (and sometimes require) an initial exclusive window in the range of six months to sell or license a film to their accounts. During that initial window, the film will be unavailable to consumers for purchase on transactional video on demand platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play or elsewhere. Many sales agents contend that if the film is available commercially on digital platforms, educational customers may be tempted to rent or purchase the film from these sellers at a much lower commercial price point. It’s true that films purchased or rented digitally do not include a public performance license (as discussed below), which is required for a public screening in most educational venues. Still, the risk of sales cannibalization remains significant where the film is available to consumers in both commercial and educational markets.

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