Fast Times in the Ad-Supported Distribution Landscape for Independents
AVOD continues to be one of the fastest-growing categories and buyers for film. The consumer-base is also greatly expanding with audiences seeking free content, in lieu of retaining a bevy of pricey SVOD platforms; resulting in more meaningful revenue for filmmakers and distributors. This panel will discuss current opportunities in the AVOD space for independent film and the rise and value of FAST Channels, as well as how platforms are experimenting with licensing windows and exclusive content, and as a result, evolving opportunities for content creators to expose their works to larger audiences.
Tyler Aquilina, Media Analyst, Variety Intelligence Platform
JJ Caruth, President, Domestic Marketing & Distribution, The Avenue
Will Gurman, VP, Global Partnerships & Content Strategy, Paramount Streaming
Yolanda Macías, Chief Content Officer and Head of Digital Sales, Cinedigm
JJ CaruthPresident, Domestic Marketing & Distribution, The Avenue
JJ Caruth is President, Domestic Marketing & Distribution for The Avenue, Highland Film Group’s domestic distribution division. Launched in 2020, The Avenue handles all aspects of distribution, from theatrical through home entertainment to television, SVOD and AVOD. The Avenue is dedicated to partnering with filmmakers and leading them into innovative ways of marketing and distribution so their stories can reach the widest audience. The Avenue has a partnership with Paramount Home Entertainment to handle Blu-ray™, DVD, VOD, and Digital distribution. Films released under The Avenue label are a combination of film titles from Highland Film Group as well as third party acquisitions.
Recent releases include Rusty Cundieff’s sci-fi thriller 57 Seconds starring Morgan Freeman and Josh Hutcherson, Adrian Grünberg’s shark actioner The Black Demon starring Josh Lucas and Andy Fickman’s romance One True Loves starring Simu Liu, Phillipa Soo and Luke Bracey. The Avenue released Petr Jákl’s sweeping historical action epic Medieval starring Ben Foster, Sophie Lowe and Sir Michael Caine on 1,200 screens in September 2022. The first feature film title released under the new stand-alone distribution banner was the martial arts sci-fi film Jiu Jitsu starring Academy Award® winner Nicolas Cage and Frank Grillo, followed by Renny Harlin’s The Misfits, starring Pierce Brosnan, Nick Cannon and Tim Roth, which had a theatrical joint release with Paramount Pictures in June 2021. Upcoming titles include William Eubank’s action thriller Land of Bad starring Russell Crowe, Liam Hemsworth and Luke Hemsworth; Rod Blackhurst’s Tribeca Film Festival and Deauville title Blood For Dust starring Scoot McNairy, Kit Harington and Josh Lucas; Adam Cooper’s crime thriller Sleeping Dogs starring Russell Crowe and Karen Gillan; and Simon West’s action comedy Old Guy starring Christoph Waltz, Lucy Liu and Cooper Hoffman.
Yolanda MacíasCCO & Head of Digital Sales, Cinedigm
Yolanda Macías is responsible for acquiring global content rights for all distribution platforms, including digital outlets amazon, Apple, NBC Peacock, Tubi, and Pluto, and sourcing content for Cineverse’s owned and operated streaming Networks such as the Dove Channel, Screambox, AsianCrush and RetroCrush and retail outlets including Walmart. Additionally, she oversees marketing including release strategy, growth and management, social and theatrical. In 2022 she was nominated and selected as the finalist for Executive of the Year by the Los Angeles Business Journal, one of the Elite Women –for ten years in the home entertainment industry and recognized as a Digital Driver nine times by Home Media Magazine and recently recognized as a Captain of Industry. Yolanda has served on the board of C5LA for several years and was selected as the 2019 Honoree. C5LA is a non-profit organization with the mission of helping under-resourced, high potential youth enroll and persist in college. Macias sits on the board of directors for Skechers, Inc.(NYSE:SKX)
During her tenure at Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment, Macías oversaw content acquisitions including securing home entertainment distribution rights for Crown Media’s Hallmark Channel and The Jim Henson Company. Macías helmed the launch and established the distribution strategy for Vivendi Entertainment’s digital distribution services along with acquiring rights for branded content such as National Geographic, WWE, NFL and Shout!Factory.
Macías received her MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her B.S. degree in Finance from California State University, Northridge. Yolanda is the proud mother of Liam (22) and Rory (20). On weekends Yolanda enjoys exploring hiking trails and bike rides or you can find her at a yoga or dance studio. She resides in Los Angeles with her puppy Willow.
Tyler AquilinaMedia Analyst, Variety Intelligence Platform
Tyler Aquilina is a media analyst for Variety Intelligence Platform, primarily covering the streaming wars and their impact on the media/tech business. He previously wrote for Entertainment Weekly, where he covered the film industry, streaming and worker issues in Hollywood, among many other topics. He’s based in Los Angeles.
Will GurmanVP, Global Partnerships & Content Strategy, Paramount Streaming
Will Gurman is VP of Global Partnerships and Content Strategy at Paramount Streaming. In his current role, Will works cross functionally to optimize the growth and performance of Pluto TV’s content partnerships and Paramount’s vast content library, and to expand the global reach and monetization of the content Pluto TV acquires. He sources, evaluates, and acquires TV series, films, sports, and digital content, to distribute across Pluto TV’s expanding FAST platform consisting of ad-supported live, linear channels and on-demand properties. In addition, he manages key partnerships with top entertainment and news networks, major studios, and indie distributors by delivering business reviews, optimizing content pipelines, and developing and executing against individualized strategic plans.
Prior to joining Paramount Streaming, Will was Senior Director of Content Acquisition and Strategy at Fullscreen, where he served a key role bringing Fullscreen’s SVOD service to market by shaping content strategy, budget plan, and programming schedule, and by sourcing and acquiring content for a millennial and Gen-Z audience.
Will began his career at Twentieth Century Fox Television in the Brand Management & Strategy group, where he evaluated opportunities and advised on strategies to maximize the value of all studio properties, including “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “Glee,” “Modern Family,” “Homeland,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “24” and “The X-Files.”
Will graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Political Science and earned an M.B.A. from UCLA Anderson.