So you've sent out press screeners to adoring reviewers at some of the most reputable publications you can think of--I'm talking Rolling Stone, Indie Wire, Mashable, etc. And now you're just waiting for the great articles to roll in and the buzz for your series to grow.
One problem with this scenario -- the reviewers are stewing. Not because your show isn't great but because the show lives on a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad press screener site. They can't login, the video doesn't play, or some other administrative headache makes their job to watch your show unpleasant. Despite your best efforts to deliver awesome content, the package in which you deliver it can impact the goodwill you have with the media reviewing it.
It's no small task getting something into production and the last thing you want as a creator is for it to fall on its face at the finish line. However, many publicity teams set their show off on the wrong foot with the makers and breakers of television by forcing a clunky, friction-filled screening experience on them.
Check out some tweets from journalists. They aren't pretty.
Network Screener Sites: For when you want to spend an afternoon staring at a watermark of your own name.— Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint) February 15, 2016
@debrabirnbaum American Horror Story: Press Screener Site— Eric Goldman (@TheEricGoldman) November 10, 2015
Starting my morning off right with not one, but two screener site fails. Maybe I'll start today's work at noon? #CriticProblems— Amber Dowling (@amber_dowling) April 13, 2016
@chicksafire I've had all kinds of screener problems. They have, like all networks, a buggy screener site that hasn't let me see it yet.— Linda Holmes (@nprmonkeysee) August 16, 2016
What if there was a screener site so secure God himself would have to spend like an extra hour trying to watch a relatively short movie?— Matt Prigge (@mattprigge) August 10, 2016
If indie distribs knew how often they almost didn't get local press because of bad screener platforms, they'd be filled with indignation.— Eric D. Snider (@EricDSnider) August 8, 2016
We're important enough that FX sends pricey, glossy press packages that direct us to the screener site we're too unimportant to access.— Daniel Walters (@danieltwalters) August 26, 2016
Some key things to remember when building a press screener site are:
1. Make login simple
Make sure reviewers know exactly what their login credentials are, and if they forget them make "reset password" an option. They should be able to independently recover passwords if they forget them.
2. Don't over do watermarks
We vouch for watermarking everything (you can never be too safe); however, it is possible to watermark without being intrusive to the viewing process. Use opacity, position, and size to minimize the impact watermarks have onthe viewing experience. Additionally, use forensic watermarking if you prefer no distraction to your video (note: forensic alone will likely not deter from leaks).
3. Improve playback
One of the biggest complaints about current screening room experiences is poor playback and buffering. Playback will always be tricky because it depends so much on the individual's connections and bandwidth. You can't help if someone is playing HD video over their wireless, home connection. But you can ensure your player does its best to adapt to different conditions and adjusts quality based on the viewers environment.
4. Offer support and training
This isn't the wild. We don't just send the inexperienced among us out to fend for themselves. Before sending your press screener site out into the universe, you should be prepping the recipient on what they should expect and walk them through the workflow for accessing content. Although your screener site should ultimately be intuitive, even the simplest instruction can avoid tons of troublshooting down the line. Additionally, in the event that there is an issue, there should be a dedicated expert on hand to triage issues specifically related to your screening room.
5. Take feedback
You may have no say in how your press screening site works from a technical perspective but you can have a say in future improvements by way of feedback. The reviewers will take to social media or worse -- not view your content, if their experience remains negative. Feedback is your best bet for improving your tools and strengthening your relationships with press.
If you're interested in learning more about creating a a custom screening room experience that doesn't suck we'd love to share a product used by Hulu, ITV and the BBC. Request a demo.
Whether we want to distribute screeners to a select few or thousands, MediaSilo makes it possible for us to have screeners available at a moment's notice," said Ryan Snowden, manager, originals operations at Hulu.