Memocast, an online seller of foreign language films, is seeking its first round of venture funding in the coming months to grow its library and start marketing its service. Memocast is carving out a space in the movie download business. While a variety of companies are slugging it out to sell Hollywood features, Memocast is seeking to be the site of choice for those wanting foreign language and international films. Currently, the site is really for those seeking Russian titles. It has a smattering of titles in other languages with a goal of ultimately selling films in 43 languages.
It’s not hard to find some things to criticize about the site, particularly in the visual design arena. It still has a totally homegrown look, which can cause some reluctance to hand over a credit card. But since it generally doesn’t get in the way of the viewing experience, I’d rather focus on the business.
The site has three levels of service. You can stream films for free if you are willing to watch commercials. You can download a DVD quality film or video at prices ranging from $1.99 to $3.99 or you can have access to the entire library without commercials via stream for $7.99/month.
Memocast acquired most of its content to date from a company called Films By Jove who holds distribution rights to Souzmultfilm, which I’m told is a Russian equivalent of a major Hollywood studio. Films By Jove provides movies and television shows, and has recently been sending Soviet era propaganda films (a treat if you’ve never seen one) to Memocast.
By going after a largely ignored, but big demographic (millions of US residents hailing from elsewhere or speaking another language in the home), they are showing 70K streams per week (more than ½ to subscribers) and are averaging about 1000 downloads per month. Revenue is growing as more people discover the site and they say they are closing in on profitability, which is more affirmation of the core tenet of web commerce — reaching down the long tail can pay off. There is also an interesting advertising angle here. If you want to be assured of reaching a certain ethnic audience, there is no better way than to go to a site that caters to that audience.
I was surprised by how little direct competition I found thus far. I’m sure it’s there, but it’s probably provided by smaller operations. There are plenty of foreign language Netflix-like offers and they likely have the relationships to move to downloads in the future. Sivoo (www.sivoo.com) offers downloads for Chinese and Spanish language content, and I have no doubt there is something in the Bollywood space as well. And, of course, file sharing looms over the space just as it does Hollywood, but while there will always be those looking for free, there will also be those willing to pay.
Its continued growth will depend on its ability to secure distribution rights in other countries. I don’t envision it will be any easier to pry open the vaults of distributors outside the U.S. than it has been in Hollywood. I don’t know enough about the business environments in all countries, but I can foresee distribution rights granted first and perhaps exclusively to single-language / single-ethnicity sites, rather than a company aspiring to be a multi-language portal.
With all the buzz surrounding sites catering to Hollywood, it’s easy to miss a company like Memocast, but if it raises the money to rapidly grow the business, this is a company and a space that bears watching over the coming months.
Given we have plenty of readers who were not born in the States, I hope you’ll comment on the service and the overall space.