Economics / Entertainment / Media

There’s now a TV channel for just Brooklyn

Brooklyn On Demand let's you watch content only from the most creative place on Earth.

Brooklyn On Demand is now on Roku. (Courtesy photo)

If you’re the kind of person (like me) who can’t remember (or has repressed) the last time you trekked into Manhattan, well you’re in luck: there’s now a Brooklyn-only TV channel you can watch from your Brooklyn couch while, I’m assuming, drinking a vegetable smoothie out of a mason jar.
Brooklyn On Demand launched last week as a channel which plays only films and media made in the borough.

It’s streaming on Roku with a mix of free and rental content. We caught up with the founder of BKOD, Joseph Shahadi, via email to hear about the project.


How much Brooklyn-specific content is there?

All of the content on Brooklyn On Demand is Brooklyn-specific.

We designed the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival to focus exclusively on the Brooklyn indie film scene — a local scene with global influence. So we are an international film festival that screens films in all genres — but they all have Brooklyn in common, either as a home base for their creators, a setting or theme etc. Brooklyn On Demand extends that mission to promote Brooklyn indie film and media into the video-on-demand space. BKOD is exclusively devoted to Brooklyn-centric indie films and media, both free and exclusive premium titles — in addition to original series, cult classics and fun extras like director interviews, behind the scenes footage and more. We spell out the various connections to Brooklyn in the info boxes for each.

Is this going to be a permanent channel?

Brooklyn On Demand is a permanent channel, available online and on Roku.

The media landscape is changing — and it will continue to change. Brooklyn On Demand is our response to this shift. We are a 21st-century film festival and we aim to use this technology to make place for the Brooklyn indie film scene within that landscape.

How big of an organization are you guys?

The Art of Brooklyn formed in 2011 and we produce a film festival that averages 1,500+ guests a year. We have a combined social media reach of 10,000 and corporate sponsors like HBO, Investors Bank and Focus Camera. We have a regular staff of five, including a Guest Festival Director, a role which is filled each year by a filmmaker or industry professional, and a large group of interns and volunteers who staff our events.

We have a Screening Panel of 20+ members who watch every submitted film and a group of Judges, comprised of industry pros including actor Annabella Sciorra and director Elliott Lester, whose numbers change each year.

Do you have to pay for the content?

No, filmmakers have been extremely enthusiastic about featuring their work on our channel. A good example is Brooklyn filmmaker Kevin Alexander, whose film Hunter&Game will premiere on BKOD on November 3rd. Kevin has been using his impending premiere on BKOD as a key element in the marketing plan for his film.

How are you going to make money? 

Our business model has evolved since we launched the channel last fall. Originally we proposed a straight split with filmmakers — 50/50  for each rental (after transaction fees from Vimeo, PayPal and Roku, which vary). [Editor’s note: Read more about BKOD’s initial plans in this Technical.ly profile from January 2015.] We still offer this deal because we believe that filmmakers should be paid for their work. But we expanded our model to include free titles in response to filmmakers requests. It seems that they valued a wider distribution — literally more eyes on their work — over the rental fees. In order to support free titles we have limited advertising on our channel. While BKOD on Roku employs an advertising network that streams ads to the Roku framework.

Why did you want to do this?

We noticed that so many of the great titles that pass through our doors end up languishing unseen when their festival runs are complete. With the rise of alternative streaming platforms, emerging channels are glutted with “content” but often leave trendsetting indie film and media makers out in the cold. We want to reinvent the role of a film festival in a moment when the way media is made, sold and consumed is changing radically. To do this we started our own channel.

What opportunities does technology like Roku open up for you?

The Roku has enabled us to place Brooklyn On Demand on a platform where it can reach an audience that is hungry for original films and media. With Roku our channel has taken its place alongside the leaders in streaming content — Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, with no subscription fee. And any of our audience that doesn’t have a Roku can still access Brooklyn On Demand online at brooklynondemand.com.

Do you think this will foster a more cohesive Brooklyn creative visual community?

Our goal since we started has been to become the central hub for Brooklyn’s indie film community. Brooklyn On Demand enables us to showcase Brooklyn’s film and media makers to an international audience. So the cohesion wouldn’t be from a particular style or approach but rather from a creative platform that promotes the scene in all its diversity.

Series: Brooklyn

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