RE: Interesting pricing

Ben Achtenberg (
Thu, 2 Dec 1999 14:22:54 -0800 (PST)

Hello All –

Any way I can get a copy of "Happiness is Having One Title," mentioned by
Karen Driessen? I think I read it back in the day, but can’t find it now.

This will be my first contribution to the discussions on this listserv. As
some of you are aware, Karen McMillen, Fanlight’s Marketing Director and
Distribution Manager for many years, was bitten by the production bug this
year, and will now be making films rather than distributing them. (Those
of you with interests in the health professions may want to check out
leaving for perhaps greener fields.)

So, at least while we search for a replacement, it’s been my pleasure
(mostly) to "listen" in on these conversations. Let me say first of all
that I would be happy (?) to hear from any of you regarding problems you
may have with Fanlight’s catalog or website, video releases, customer
service, or anything else. I can’t promise that we’ll make you happy, but
we’ll try.

Regarding the current thread on pricing, packaging, and related issues,
I’ve got a question and a couple of comments from Fanlight’s point of view
(I don’t want to pretend to represent any other distributors, or
distributors in general, though I think many would support these thoughts.)

The question is one on which I would very much welcome your input.


QUESTION: I think I understand the issues raised about the packaging,
unpackaging, and re-packaging of series titles, and probably agree in
general; but let me present a situation we are currently dealing with:

We recently had the opportunity to acquire some films produced by a
professional organization in one of the healthcare fields. Out of their
catalog of 4 or 5 series, we thought that only 3 titles, which happened to
be part of one 5-part series, were up to our standards and would be of
interest to audiences beyond this professional group. They each stand
alone, and can be effectively used in the absence of the other films. We
are advertising them as individual films, or as a series of three. The
five-part series is still available from the producer (at a HIGHER
per-video cost than ours, incidentally, since it also includes some
professional training materials which we didn’t feel our customers would be
interested in.) Should anyone inquire about the longer series, we will be
happy to arrange for them to get the additional titles and materials, but
obviously there are possibilities for confusion in this situation, and we
would welcome your suggestions on how to handle it. We’re not out to
mislead people, but neither are we anxious to direct potential customers to
what is, in effect, our competitor.


ON DIFFERENCE IN PRICING: We used to only handle films for which we were
the sole source. With the level of production down (at least of the types
of films we’re interested in), we find that we simply can’t be that
exclusive any more. Currently we sub-distribute some films for which there
is another primary distributor; we distribute some films for which there is
no "primary" distributor, but several non-exclusive distributors; and we
have authorized a few other distributors to sub-distribute some of our
releases. In some of these cases there is some contractual method of
setting or controlling prices, in others there is not. I don’t think
you’ll find any of our sub-distributors pricing our films lower than we do,
but I can’t guarantee it in all cases. Where we are the sub-distributor,
there have been at least a few situations when WE found out that the
primary distributor had lowered their price, not from them, but from an
annoyed customer. We understand and share the annoyance, and in all cases
have honored the lower price – then either changed our own list price to
match, or dropped the title from our list.

…MORE ON PRICING: There’s another category of cases in which we have
acquired films which may have been launched into very limited, low-priced,
distribution by the sponsoring organization – often just a one-shot mailing
to their professional organization and/or a mention on their website. When
we take on such films on, we frequently authorize them to continue with
their own marketing efforts (sometimes this is a requirement of the
original funding source) but make clear that we will need to set a higher
price in order to justify our marketing efforts. So…there may be cases
when an astute researcher can locate a lower-priced source for a few of our
titles, but I’d be willing to bet that in 99.9% of those cases you would
never have heard of the film if not through reviews we have obtained,
festivals or conferences we have placed it in – or through our catalog or

…AND STILL MORE: I’m not sure what to say about the extreme pricing
differentials found by some correspondents. Please let me know if you come
across any situations like this involving Fanlight releases. Regarding
less extreme differences in pricing between different distributors, I
really feel like this is comparable to other products which may have
different prices if you buy them in a specialty boutique or a big discount
store, from a catalog, or from two different sites on the internet.
Different marketers have different costs and overheads. The canny shopper
will get the best price, but may pay more in time spent looking.


ON DATES: I well understand that media librarians and specialists, who are
constantly monitoring and evaluating each year’s new releases, do not want
to be mistakenly re-reviewing something they rejected years earlier. We
have the same concern regarding programs which producers send to us for
distribution consideration. On the other hand, a high proportion of our
customers are not specialists, and may not be aware of films relevant to
them until some time after their release dates. It’s been our experience
with many of our best older titles that customers may pass over them if
they see an older date in the catalog, but that once they preview, they buy.

Our present uneasy compromise – and, again, I would welcome feedback – is
that we do NOT list dates in our catalog (nor, this year, are we including
ISBN numbers there) but they (both) ARE listed on our website – and of
course are available at any time by checking with our staff by


ETC., ETC.: I was interested in some of Karen Driessen’s other comments
about needed bibliographic information. Frankly, I don’t think there’s any
way that much of this is going to be making its way into the limited space
available in our catalog – but it’s possible that we could add it to the
website, if people feel that would be useful. Given that it may not happen
all at once, what do people feel would be the most helpful information
(besides dates and ISBN’s) to start with?


I’ll be glad to hear back from you.

Ben Achtenberg
Fanlight Productions

Ben Achtenberg
Fanlight Productions
4196 Washington St, Suite 2
Boston, MA 02131

(800) 937-4113 / (617) 469-4999
Fax: (617) 469-3379