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factualTV: Online documentary films

factualTV (http://factualtv.com) is a new online documentary screening and sales service that gives visitors free access to many factual videos and documentaries. These categorised videos and fairly high quality videos (web streaming quality) are free to view online (requires a simple registration) and can be downloaded for a small charge, and as their website states “sometimes free”. The list of films on factualTV’s website is not eye-popping (they claim that not all of their over 2000 titles have been uploaded) and one would guess this is not meant to be either since the site is positioned as a documentary screening and distribution community. But in the long run, one would expect them to have a selection of the best documentary films. factualTV is run by Documentary Base, a documentary film aggregation service. We popped Carl Wahlström at factualTV a few questions.:

What is factualTV all about?

…what we do is to broadcast documentaries and other programmes of a factual nature over the web. That means it’s all on-demand and most of our selection is also available for immediate streaming whereas the rest of the material can be downloaded with user-credits.

What we feel is important is that we focus on themes and subjects. All videos are categorized under a theme as Art & Artists, Nature or Politics to name a few. We want to reach out to niche target groups to which our specific themes and subjects would be interesting as well as anybody who just has an interest of programmes with a factual content.

factualTV is web-based and all that is required to access our material is the internet and an e-mail address. As most users who initially find their way to factualTV have an interest in a set of videos about a certain subject we want as few obstacles as possible between the user and the wanted material. Because of this we also focus on usability and simplicity when it comes to the technology.

…we have more than 2000 titles (all are not yet uploaded on the site) with 20 content partners from all continents. factualTV has signed deals with Off the Fence (NL), Beyond Distribution (AU) and September Films (UK) to name a few.

With services such as Youtube and other free web sites (which attract far greater traffic), what advantage does factual TV offer over such services?

Well if you look at You-tube you will find everything in between high and low quality features. Some uploaded by content owners, some not uploaded by content owners and lots of films get removed because of that very reason. And the diversity of films is extremely wide, and you have everything from music videos to plump college humour and educational videos. You-tube is a medium where the users stand for the content, and anyone is free to upload anything within certain boundaries.

Whereas if you look at factualTV you will find that our content has a common ground, it’s based on facts, it’s educational as well as entertaining. You can stream full-length-programmes with a guaranteed quality. You wont have to sit and stream one bit at a time like on You-tube where the mid-segment of the programme might or might not have been removed by the actual content holder. What you see on factualTV we have the right to broadcast over the net, and what you see will stay on the site since we cooperate with the actual content holders. We both know there’s an obvious reason you can watch movie trailers on you tube but not watch the actual film in its whole.

So you might not say that we offer an advantage over other internet broadcasting services that attracts more traffic, but we have a niche and it’s not for us to compete with You-tube. We advertise our site with a You-tube channel where we show trailers and hope that those who find our features interesting will find their way to our site and watch the rest. And I think the bottom line is that we’re another sort of internet broadcasting medium. There has to be You-tubes and Metacafés and all of their likes on the web but there also has to be a factualTV that can provide programmes in another way. Programmes that often due to questions about content owning won’t be legally broadcasted on You-tube. If it were to be the original content holders would probably already have offered their features on You-tube since it’s one of internets biggest mediums. You can regard factualTV as the middle hand that strive to provide you with programmes with an educational and factual content.

What revenue sharing arrangement do you offer filmmakers?

The deals we do with filmmakers are mostly done via their production companies, distribution companies or TV-channels that holds the rights to their content. We offer long-term deals – usually around 4-5 years – which are exclusive or non-exclusive. Some of the deals are made for certain restricted areas – mostly due to only having the rights for certain regions or matters of censorship – and can therefore not be viewed from all countries.

In most cases we don’t offer any license-fee up front. Instead we provide marketing for that certain feature we made the deal about.

Other online documentary websites include SnagFilms, document.tv, Documentary Film, actv.com, Internet Archive,


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