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The Dimensionality of Film Rights

If you’re in the business of media distribution, at some point or another you will have had to come up with a solution to managing your rights. If you’re like most organizations, finding a solution that meets your needs, without requiring hours and hours of manual labor is an ongoing and frustrating task.

The Cost of Rights Management

The cost of proper rights management can be high, but the cost of improper management can be even higher. Without accurate and fast insight into your available rights, you’re losing money in the deals you close as well as the opportunities you lose. Besides lost revenue, lower speed of operations increases the burden of manual labor, and limits your bandwidth on pursuing opportunities. Ask yourself, how much would you save if tasks that take a week could be done in a minute, or how many more deals would you be able to pursue. Additionally, without clear, accurate, or accessible data, there is always a risk of selling rights you don’t have, or monetizing beyond the permissible window or territory.

The concept of dimensionality within rights is one of the most misunderstood aspects of rights management. In fact, most of the problems caused by improper rights management boil down to the absence of dimensionality within a rights model. By introducing dimensionality to your rights, you can begin to save yourself a lot of time and money.

So what do we mean by right dimensions?

What the Heck are Rights Dimensions

Rights are multidimensional by nature. Whether you track them, or even think about them, or not, there is a wide range of parameters you need in order to completely convey the extent of a right. Often people will only record what license they have (such as Cinematic, Pay TV, etc.) for a given title within a specific time window, and as part of a specific contract. The problem with this method is that a right is not just a license.

A complete right is the combination of all of the right’s dimensions, including the license. In order to produce a system of rights that are unambiguous, searchable, and able to be filtered, every right must have information across all dimensions.

A few of the dimensions we commonly run into are as follows.

Date Range

A right will always have a date range. You may have a perpetual ride, but even that is a date range in and of itself. There will always be a starting and ending date to record (even when the end date is technically infinite). It will never suffice to simply base dates on memory, or on common knowledge, for example if everyone on your team knows that windows on contracts with a given platform are always 3 years long. Simply recording the date range will open up a world of possibilities when it comes to making your data actionable. More on that later.

License Type

Rights and licenses types are frequently confused, and the language we use around licenses reflects that. You might have free TV, cinematic, theatrical, or hotel rights, but the reality is that this isn't a whole right, but a single dimension. These may be nested or tiered at multiple levels.

Territory

Similarly to the license type, territory is somewhat self explanatory. Territories are a dimension of rights that often create problems with ambiguity because of how difficult they can be to capture or define. When you’re talking about Latin America as a territory, how many countries does that include? Is it 18 or is it 23? Do you define it the same way every time? Do your partners define it the same way? These are all questions that you need to be able to answer easily while managing your rights, or you will quickly open yourself up to compliance issues.

Language

Language is another area where ambiguity is likely to occur without a bulletproof system of record. It’s common to skip language and work with the assumption that your right includes all languages. However, even when this is the case, we strongly recommend spelling it out to avoid problems later.

Platforms

At this point you may have a right sold for a certain license type, for a certain date range, for a certain language, and then you slice the right even further by platform. For example, you may sell it exclusively to one platform, non-exclusively to three platforms, or sell to a distributor to monetize on only three platforms. There are a number of options here and it’s important to record what your exact rights in and out are for any given title, in order to fully exploit your assets and avoid compliance issues.

Exclusivity

Perhaps the most self explanatory of all is exclusivity. This is another one that often falls into the general knowledge trap, however it’s important to record. Recording exclusivity will help not only avoid compliance problems, and allow you to execute complex searches to better monetize your library, but tracking exclusivity within deals over time can provide valuable business insight.

Titles

While it’s tempting to think of a title as a fairly straightforward concept, the reality is a bit more complex. Titles are hierarchical by nature. When you sell a title, which version or versions are included in the scope of the deal? You may have the director’s cut, the raw file, the version approved by the sensor board of a certain territory. The various files or version associated with a title falls into a tree structure, and your rights management system will be infinitely easier to navigate if it can account for this.

Beneficiary & Deal Structure

Finally, beneficiary and deal structure cover who gets paid and how much. Is it a rev share deal? Are you cross collateralizing with other assets as part of some other, larger deal? Is there a recruitment against the MG (Minimum Guarantee)? Is the rev share split differently by different territories, or by different platforms? Is there a difference between the first and second year? Is there a date trigger? There are a lot of questions that must be answered to accurately communicate the full extent of the beneficiary and deal structure rights dimension.

What’s the Point

Most people don’t track all of these dimensions of their rights because they either don’t have a system that allows them to, haven’t thought about rights in this way, or because it just seems like a lot of work.

In the pre-pandemic world, a distributor might have gotten away with a dimensionless rights strategy. Today, most companies are struggling to keep up with the modern ecosystem of content-hungry streamers. Why? Because volume requires efficiency beyond the capacity of manual systems or outdated tools. The only way to efficiently manage a large library, especially in the complex landscape of streaming, is through an intelligent rights management system.

An intelligent rights management system is one that is searchable and filterable across all of the dimensions mentioned above, and maybe more! Searchability means that your data is accessible to you at the click of a button. If you want to completely exploit your library, you need to answer questions like which titles in your library are available in a specific time window, for AVOD, in Latin America, that haven’t ever been pitched to Netflix. In an excel spreadsheet, this might take days to figure out. Most people simply can’t answer a question as complex as this one with their current system.

Building a proper rights management system can be quite an undertaking. MOLTEN is helping organizations across the distribution chain by streamlining their operations. Today MOLTEN is serving over 200 million rights across 6 continents of the world, and is touching in some way about 10% of all known movies per IMDb stats. If you’re interested in learning more about MOLTEN’s intelligent avails, you’re welcome to schedule an introduction here - no strings attached.

The best thing you can do to improve your rights management system is to begin to implement dimensions, and whenever possible, outsource logic to a computer. Wracking your memory may be the cheapest way to capture the complexity of your rights data, but you are greatly inhibiting your ability to leverage your library, and opening yourself up to a lot of headache!

Have any questions for MOLTEN? Reach out to contact@moltencloud.com.