Online film festivals : a hybrid transition?


The health crisis has shaken up the event industry and especially festivals.

A year ago, real questions were raised for both organizers and participants. Various events were forced to change their model and turn to 100% online in a hurry.

Backup, permanent or complementary solution, in this article we discuss the different reasons to create an online version.

A radical change

Among the festivals that contacted us, 90% had to cancel or limit their physical event. Many issues arose as an organizer during this particular context: "How to monetize our streaming content? What business model should we focus on?"

First, they had to agree  with their rights holders and get permission to offer their films on VOD.

The COVID crisis was not foreseen, so most of them had a limited budget for this unprepared expense.

A lack of technical knowledge of the streaming market was felt because it was the first time they really considered this option. Solutions that were too complex to implement and required specific expertise were not adapted to their needs.

They were also aware that their audiences would have high expectations in terms of user experience, since most of them already subscribe to services like Netflix, which are known for their quality customer experience.

Some festivals had a very tight schedule to match the online version with the physical event dates and needed an operational platform within 4-6 weeks.

Finally, they wanted to offer an event similar to the traditional festival with workshops or live debates.
With limited time, high user expectations, and limited knowledge of OTT, a turnkey solution that could be deployed very quickly was essential.

A turnkey solution

At Kinow, we deploy streaming platforms for any festival or distributor who wants to publish online its content under its own brand without having to manage all the technical aspects.

If you want to create a video-on-demand or live streaming service, you will need several technical bricks, here are the essential ones:

  1. First of all, the hosting of your videos; you will have to transcode, that is to say transform the video files into a format compatible with the streaming standard (usually HLS), store, protect your content against piracy with DRM (Digital Rights Management) and ensure a smooth distribution via a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

You will also need a video player to allow your users to watch the content, rewind, speed up or even cast the video to a smartTV.

2. However, it's not just about displaying your videos as they are. It is imperative to organize them and to associate information such as titles, descriptions, actor or film director presentations, images or movie clips, trailers... This information is called metadata and is managed via a content management system (CMS).

3. Then, if you want to monetize your content through a pay-per-view, pass or subscription fee, a payment and billing system will be necessary to manage the orders.

4. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool will allow you to manage the creation of user accounts and login IDs, and to follow the activity of these accounts.

5. Analytics tools give you an accurate view of your audience and sales and statistics to identify the most popular content and adapt your marketing strategy (emailing, exclusive offers, acquisition of new content).

6. Finally, an ergonomic website and mobile or TV applications are essential to attract and retain your users.

Many benefits for festivals

As you can see, our solution has many assets to meet the needs of events.

An intuitive, complete and customizable platform

The administration panel is easy to use for non-technical people. It allows to collaborate with several people, to distribute the roles with different accesses for internal organizers and external partners for example. Regarding the content editorialization, it is very intuitive and enables you add bonuses, interviews, trailers, screenshots, director’s files,...

The infrastructure is fully scalable and you keep control of all aspects, including monetization. You can recreate your graphic universe, add coupons, restrict the viewing of some videos to users, define periods of accessibility and visibility,... the possibilities are numerous.

A better knowledge of its audience

Some tools allow you to retrieve subscriber’s emails and track their viewing history to suggest and recommend content. By exporting the viewing statistics, you will be able to analyze them for the next editions and give qualitative feedback to the rights holders. In case of questions, a user-friendly contact form is available for members and allows organizers to be reactive.

A wider audience

The online version makes it possible to reach an audience that is not limited to a geographical area, as well as a potentially larger target in terms of age, socio-professional category (CSP), or reduced mobility.

Speed of deployment and budget savings

For festivals facing constant change and instability since the health crisis, the main benefit is to save considerable time in creating a platform, as well as budget savings compared to in-house development.

Each festival is unique

We had the opportunity to deploy international festivals such as the Annecy International Animation Festival and the Aubagne International Film Festival.


It is interesting to see how each of them approached their online edition:

  • As for the business model, Aubagne was accessible for free by simply creating an account, and Annecy offered a 15 euro pass for accreditation. While the Aubagne festival only offered VOD, the Annecy festival offered live sessions.

  • As for the editorial strategy, Aubagne only published 2 to 3 films per day which were only accessible for 24 hours. In Annecy, you could access the whole catalog during the whole festival on the platform.

  • The Aubagne online festival lasted 1 week in April and the Annecy festival 2 weeks in June. But Annecy decided to keep the platform running all year long to use it as a screening room and as a space dedicated to B2B activities outside the festival period.

  • Both festivals were a huge success considering the short time available. Aubagne had over 18,000 user accounts created in one week and Annecy had over 15,000 participants.

To recap, more than twenty festivals have been deployed in nearly a year:

  • AFLAM Festival
  • Annecy International Animation Festival
  • Aubagne International Film Festival
  • Autrans Mountain Film Festival
  • Champs Elysées Film Festival
  • Cinanima
  • Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival
  • Curieux Voyageurs Festival
  • Dakar Short Festival
  • European Short Film Festival of Brest
  • Festival le court en dit long
  • Festival Terres d'ailleurs
  • Festival Tous Courts
  • France Nature Environnement 2020 Festival
  • Kurdish Filmfestival Berlin
  • Le Grand Bivouac
  • Monstra Festival
  • Un Festival c’est trop court !
  • RISC Festival
  • Traces de Vies Festival
  • 25 Arts Seconde Festival

For their first online editions, the results have been very positive and the objectives have often been largely exceeded in terms of audience and public reception.

Among these events, the Grand Bivouac (Documentary Film & Book Festival) took place online in October 2020. They conducted a survey after the creation of their first digital festival and some key figures emerge:

  • More than 96% were satisfied or very satisfied with this digital festival.

  • And more than 78% think that the digital solution is complementary to an indoor festival and think that this concept could continue.

Whether it is a total alternative or complementary to the event, this solution seems to have won the hearts of users.

What future?

The participants are therefore considering a hybrid version, that is to say online and physical for the next few seasons. This solution should not replace the initial edition, which is essential.

Indeed, the physical event remains historical and indispensable for a territory. The economic impact is very real in several areas (transportation, catering, accommodation). Public financers, partners and sponsors expect no less, the economic spin-offs are important for a region.

Finally, the objective of a digital version for next years is to create an offer that is complementary but not competitive to the physical version.

This new version allows to extend the experience of the offline edition. The platform can remain open all-year-round with occasional appointments to speak at other times than the festival itself. In order to strengthen the community links and offer a unique interlude, exchanges with directors, producers and actors can be possible using the live platform.

And to go further in the experience and create an exclusive moment, why not consider virtual rooms with limited seats, a single session at a fixed time, exchanges by chat, a voting system from the users...

If you are thinking of creating an online version of your festival and would like to know more, please contact our experts!