Who Buys Documentaries?

13 Real-World Options For Selling Your Film

#FilmSales #FilmDistribution



who buys documentaries

"Who Buys Documentaries?"

Hey there, documentary filmmaker!

So, you've poured your heart and soul into creating an amazing film, and now you're ready to find an audience for your masterpiece. But who's actually investing in documentaries these days?

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13 Real-World Options For Selling Your Film

Who buys documentaries? Let's explore the different types of buyers eager to get their hands on your documentary:

1. Streaming Platforms

In today's digital age, streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu are major players in the documentary market. These platforms are always on the hunt for fresh and engaging content to add to their vast libraries.

With their massive subscriber bases, these platforms provide an unparalleled opportunity for your film or doc series to be seen by millions of viewers around the world.

Learn how to sell your documentary to Netflix & the Streamers.

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2. Broadcast Channels: Traditional Powerhouses

Television networks, both public and private, have long been supporters of documentaries. Channels like BBC, PBS, National Geographic, and Discovery Channel are known for investing in and airing high-quality documentaries. 

Partnering with these networks can provide you with the resources and visibility to make a significant impact on viewers worldwide.

And yes, even in 2024 "linear still matters"! Click over to Peter Hamilton's Documentary Business site for a series of detailed analysis on the channels including Discovery Channel & Animal Planet: What are they buying? 

3. Educational Institutions: Turning Your Film into a Learning Tool

Schools, universities, and libraries are always on the lookout for documentaries that can enhance their curriculums and provide engaging educational resources.

If your documentary covers subjects like history, science, or social issues, consider targeting academic institutions to expand your audience and foster critical thinking among students.

Learn how to sell your film to educational institutions (and other film buyers) in our Documentary Sales & Distribution Course

4. Non-Profit Organizations and NGOs: The Power of Storytelling for Change

Non-profit organizations and NGOs often buy documentaries to raise awareness about important issues and causes they champion.

If your film aligns with their missions and values, these organizations can be valuable partners, using the power of storytelling to reach wider audiences, inspire change, and even drive fundraising efforts.

5. Distribution Companies: Maximizing Your Film's Commercial Potential

Distribution companies play a critical role in the world of documentaries. They purchase the rights to distribute films, both domestically and internationally, to various platforms and markets.

Companies like Zeitgeist Films, Magnolia Pictures and Roco Films can help you reach your target audience and maximize your film's commercial potential.

Find a searchable database of film buyers, sales agents and distribution companies inside our Documentary Sales & Distribution Course.

6. Government Agencies: Spreading Awareness and Educating the Public

Government agencies can also be significant buyers of documentaries, particularly when it comes to films that align with their objectives and help spread awareness on crucial topics.

Documentaries covering subjects like public health, safety, environmental conservation, and cultural heritage may catch the eye of government bodies looking to educate the public and promote their initiatives.

7. Film Festivals: Showcasing Your Work and Securing Distribution Deals

Film festivals, such as Sundance, Tribeca, and Hot Docs, offer a unique opportunity for you to showcase your work, network with industry professionals, and potentially secure distribution deals.

While festivals may not purchase documentaries outright, they serve as a vital platform for you to connect with potential buyers and generate interest in your project.

Explore Documentary Film Festivals

8. Airlines: Entertaining Passengers at 35,000 Feet

Yes, airlines will purchase documentaries to showcase on their flights!

In-flight entertainment systems often include a selection of documentaries to keep passengers engaged and entertained during their travels.

Airlines typically look for documentaries that appeal to a wide range of interests, covering topics like travel, culture, history, and science.

 Learn how to sell to airlines and other film buyers.

9. International Sales Agents: Expanding Your Documentary's Reach Worldwide

International sales agents are key players in the documentary market, specializing in acquiring and selling film rights to foreign distributors and platforms.

These agents can help you navigate the complex world of international distribution, ensuring that your documentary reaches audiences beyond your home country.

By partnering with international sales agents, you can tap into new markets, gain exposure to a diverse array of viewers, and maximize your documentary's global impact.


10. Production Companies: Collaborating to Bring Your Vision to Life

Production companies can be valuable allies when it comes to bringing your documentary idea to fruition.

For the right project, these companies can help secure funding and provide support in exchange for distribution rights and other negotiated benefits.

By collaborating with a production company, they can help navigate legal matters, connect with potential distribution channels and provide expertise in the filmmaking process. In turn, production companies benefit from acquiring unique and compelling stories to add to their portfolio, making this a win-win situation for both parties.

11. Crowdfunding Supporters: Powering Your Documentary with Community Backing

Crowdfunding supporters have emerged as a significant force in the documentary market, allowing filmmakers to bypass traditional funding routes and directly connect with their audience.

Platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Seed&Spark enable filmmakers to raise funds for their documentaries by appealing to potential viewers who are eager to see their stories come to life.

These supporters essentially become buyers of your documentary, often receiving digital downloads, DVDs, or exclusive access to the finished film as a reward for their contributions.

By tapping into the power of crowdfunding, you can not only secure the necessary funds for your project, but also create a community of engaged and passionate backers who will champion your work and help spread the word, contributing to the overall success of your documentary.

12: Niche Streaming Platforms: Connecting with Your Target Audience

In addition to the major streaming platforms mentioned previously, there are numerous niche streaming services that cater specifically to documentary lovers and certain subject areas.

Platforms like CuriosityStream, DocPlay and The Criterion Channel focus on providing their subscribers with an extensive selection of documentary films, making them an ideal destination for filmmakers looking to connect with their target audience.

By partnering with niche streaming platforms, you can ensure that your documentary is easily discoverable by viewers who are passionate about your chosen topic.

Learn how to distribute your film with niche streaming platforms in our Documentary Sales & Distribution course.

13. Individual Consumers: Catering to Passionate Documentary Lovers

Last, but certainly not least, individual consumers form a substantial portion of the documentary market.

These documentary enthusiasts purchase films to watch at home or on the go, often using VOD (Video On Demand) platforms like iTunes, Google Play, or even physical DVDs and Blu-rays. 

These consumers have diverse interests, ranging from history and science to true crime and social issues.

By tapping into the passion of these documentary lovers and targeting your marketing efforts towards them, you can create a dedicated fan base that will support your work, share it with their friends and family, and eagerly await your future projects.



Selling Your Documentary For Maximum Profit and Impact

Ready to find film buyers and sell your film? Get the ultimate step-by-step guide for selling your film and learn how to generate multiple streams of income inside our popular Documentary Sales & Distribution course

In addition to in-depth video training, get these additional resources and downloadables:

  • Distribution deal points sheet
  • Distribution deliverables schedule 
  • Pitch Deck Sample
  • Distribution Budget Template
  • Film buyers & Sales agents database

Get The Film Sales & Distribution Tool Kit Bundle
(Includes Netflix Course)



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