SnagFilms News Update: Semel Joins Board, New Financing Round Closed, 'Kinyarwanda' Acquired

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by Anne Thompson
January 31, 2012 4:58 PM
1 Comment
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Terry Semel
Burgeoning digital distributor SnagFilms (which owns Indiewire) has been making a lot of changes of late. Most recent news is that the digital indie distributor has closed a new, seven-figure financing round, has added ex-Yahoo and Warner Bros. chief Terry Semel to its board, and is plunging full steam ahead into distribution of narrative as well as documentary features.

SnagFilms has closed the financing round with participation from all current investors, including SnagFilms founder and chairman Ted Leonsis, Steve and Jean Case’s Case Foundation Ventures LLC., the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Comcast Interactive Capital (CIC), joined by new investors Semel and General Catalyst Partners co-founder and managing director David Fialkow. In addition to new equity, the company has arranged its first debt facility with Silicon Valley Bank. Total available equity and debt financing is $7 million.

Semel, who is also on the board of the LA County Museum of Art, brings to SnagFilms his strategic perspective as both the head of a major studio and one of the biggest web companies, and gives this young private company a huge vote of confidence. Semel is already bringing in filmmakers and projects for possible distribution.

SnagFilms will use the new funding to build its indie film library that now numbers more than 3000 titles; continue to develop its technology across all digital platforms and devices; and expand its film marketing. That includes SnagFilms' latest acquisition, exclusive digital rights to Alrick Brown's 2011 Sundance World Dramatic Audience Award Winner “Kinyarwanda,” to be released on April 7, the anniversary of the Rwanda genocide. The film was recently nominated for three NAACP Image Awards including Outstanding Independent Motion Picture, Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing for a Motion Picture.  Roger Ebert selected "Kinyarwanda" as #6 in his Top 20 Films of 2011.  The film opened theatrically in December 2011;  Breaking Glass Pictures has DVD rights in North America and broadcast rights in the U.S. 

New acquisitions are also pending from this year's Sundance Festival.

In 2011, SnagFilms increased  its library and is now available on over 100 devices, including 95% of all tablets (among them, iPad and Kindle Fire), all Android smartphones, OTT devices and connected TVs, and throughout the web world on its website and extensive digital network of affiliated sites and blogs. SnagFilms also expanded its transactional platform distribution with Comcast and FiOS video on demand and with digital pay-on-demand platforms iTunes, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube Movies, and will soon launch on DIRECTV and digital streaming providers VUDU, Samsung Media Hub and XBOX Live.

“After a phenomenal year of growth in 2011, SnagFilms is poised for even greater success in 2012,” stated Ted Leonsis, SnagFilms’ founder and chairman.  “This new investment by all our current investors, along with new funding from two tech and media-savvy newcomers, are true testaments to our strong belief in SnagFilms’ tremendous potential for long term success.  Digital delivery isn’t just the wave of the future – it is the driving force now for filmmakers to reach large audiences and spread their passion, and to create new revenue streams that make their next film possible.”

“I have spent a long time at the intersection of films and new media,” said Terry Semel. “Movie studios don’t have a monopoly on great stories, yet small distribution companies struggle to assemble the footprint necessary to reach a scale audience.  SnagFilms has that base – the necessary contracts and relationships to distribute thousands of great stories, with the capital required to lead its field.”

“This new capital will enable SnagFilms to stay at the forefront of changing consumer behavior and technological innovation, while expanding the breadth and depth of our content,” stated SnagFilms’ CEO Rick Allen.  “We are now extremely well positioned for accelerated growth, as we further our mission of bringing outstanding independent films to digital audiences, on demand, wherever and whenever they want to watch great entertainment.”

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