Jaume Ripoll, Juan Carlos Tous and José Antonio de Luna are the founders of Filmin, a pioneering Catalan company in the digital distribution of films and TV series. Filmin has also been an innovator and was one of the first platforms to introduce a flat rate in Europe, as well as creating the Atlàntida online film festival. It has also opted for the Catalan language and Filmin.cat now has a catalogue of 2,900 titles in Catalan.
How did Filmin come about?
We had the idea 14 years ago during the World Cup in Germany. We thought of the name Filmin and the concept of a movie rental platform and, in the autumn of 2008, we launched it with a simultaneous release in cinemas and on the internet.
How did you know that this would be the way most people watch films?
Everything suggested to us that things would go that way. For example, iTunes was starting to rent songs. Our first decision was to create an online platform for independent and classic movies and TV series. We weren’t looking to become a content platform with massive blockbusters, but rather to complement that. Our second decision was to introduce the flat rate service, and we were among the first in Europe to do so. The third was to work on the editorial part, so that Filmin users would see there was an editorial team working to recommend titles, which is what we had experienced before in the video clubs we liked.
How many titles do you have now?
Right now we have 14,500 titles, including feature films and TV series, which are mostly European. We also have classic American productions. The Filmin catalogue has different branches, such as all-time classic films by the likes of Billy Wilder, Hitchcock, and Orson Welles. We also have documentaries on a wide variety of subjects, from food and music to politics and history. Thirdly, we have award-winning independent films, and we also have a very large catalogue of children’s films.
It’s not common for platforms to opt for Catalan. What is Filmin.cat?
Our support for Catalan began a few years ago, when we began releasing films subtitled and dubbed into Catalan. But we also thought it was important to publish content in Catalan, not just offer content in that language. We wanted to have collections about contemporary reality, specials, to work with Catalan directors, with the Catalan Film Academy, and so on. And we were lucky that the Catalan government’s Department of Culture supported our idea and gave us help that allowed us to make the investment, which was quite large. We developed television and mobile applications specifically in Catalan, and it’s not just a translation, it’s about editorialised content, and that’s key. There are 2,900 productions in Catalan. The positive response of Catalan society to a project that we obviously understand needs to continue improving has helped us a lot.
What do you mean by ‘editorialised’?
What kind of content we highlight, how we highlight it, what titles and subtitles we add, what collections we create, and so on. One of the keys to Filmin’s success has been understanding our reality, our environment, what is happening in society... Our channels and collections reflect this. Just as you would set up a newspaper, we present the content based on events and what’s happening now.
Is this the secret of your success?
Firstly it’s due to the shareholders and distributors like A Contracorriente or Filmax, who have been with us on this journey from the start. Secondly, it’s down to the talent of the team. And thirdly our subscribers, who have also spread the word about Filmin. And finally, the support of the European Union has been key. We are the only company in Catalonia and Spain that has been named as the best online company in Europe by the EU’s Media programme. Without their financial support, Filmin wouldn’t exist.
How has the coronavirus crisis affected your platform?
With Covid-19, the number of views on platforms in general has multiplied. For us, the number of views has risen by 50%, but not the number of subscribers. But Filmin and other larger companies were already growing in the months before. Lockdown has led to a little growth, but not much.
Some predict a drop in cinemagoers. Do you think that could happen?
Not in the short term but in the mid-term, hopefully in the autumn, a certain normality will return, and by normality I mean how things stood in February, when consumption on platforms was high, but so was cinema attendance. We premiered Parasite a week after the Oscars, when it had been in cinemas for three months. A month later, it had grossed three million more euros while both in cinemas and online. It’s been shown that we’re not in competition with cinemas.
How do people consume content on Filmin, whether on smart TV, mobile phone, computer, or other means?
More and more content is being consumed on smart TVs. Then comes watching on the web, which is going down, and finally, in equal parts, on tablets and mobile phones, about 10% each.
You also pioneered online festivals; it’s Atlàntida’s 10th edition this summer.
It’s funny to see people now discovering festivals online when we did one 10 years ago. We knew we had to keep innovating and looking for new directions, and 10 years ago we wanted to give prestige to new films on the internet; then it was frowned upon if a movie came to the internet without first going through cinemas, as it was seen as a sign of poor quality. Thanks to the festival, we created an opportunity for national and European creators to premiere their films and gain visibility. Today, the festival has two venues, the physical one, in Palma, Mallorca, and the online part. We did this in order to expand our audience base. Online platforms believe a physical venue is necessary, and physical festivals believe that online festivals let them reach a new audience. We have the same ambition and goal: for more people to discover our creations.