How is Mubi different from Netflix

Stream with Mubi: an alternative for movie buffs

Efe Cakarel, CEO of Mubi, has a remarkable numerical example ready for the speed with which the first lockdown affected the influx of streaming providers. On average, the platform's server recorded an access frequency of around 17,000 people per minute, this number skyrocketed to 51,000 in the first days of the pandemic, he said in the industry journal Screen. The number of subscribers, so Mubi on STANDARD request, has doubled in the last year.

Cakarel, born in Izmir in 1976 and trained in computer science at the renowned MIT in the USA, founded what is currently probably the most distinguished streaming platform in 2007, the same year that Netflix went online.

An opportunity

Back then, as he once said, the entrepreneur was not even a film lover in the narrower sense. Above all, he saw a "business opportunity". One that industry insiders had vehemently advised against: Too many legal barriers and licensing problems would oppose the idea of ​​making advanced auteur films from Tokyo to L.A. available online.

Boutique label

But Cakarel trusted his instincts. He saw a gap in an as yet undifferentiated market and, with persistent networking, convinced global distributors such as Celluloid Dreams to get involved in the experiment. In a streaming industry that generally follows the logic of "more is more", Mubi has become a boutique label over the years, which filmmakers like the Coen brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson and Sofia Coppola prefer to use and promote accordingly. Martin Scorsese placed films that he had restored with the World Cinema Foundation in the hands of Mubi. You can currently find early films by Frenchman Philippe Garrel there alongside the latest short film by Yorgos Lanthimos or David Fincher's anti-establishment fistfight Fight Club.

Exclusively released

The most important difference to the large, algorithm-controlled players is the curation of the content: a handpicked film is added every day, which then remains available for 30 days. Since last year, this principle, the content of which varies slightly from one world region to another (also due to the need of various rights holders), has been supplemented by a video library, which extends the time window.

A film like Werner Herzogs Family Romance, LLC via a bizarre trend that originated in Japan to rent (missing) family members, it can still be streamed months after the start. Mubi brought it out exclusively (including an interview with the director), a distribution practice that is being pushed more and more. The premiere of will follow at the end of April Labyrinth of Cinema from the hand of the Japanese horror avant-gardist Nobuhiko Ôbayashi (House).

The special way

But not only in the programmatic addition of streaming powers such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney +, in which art house and auteur cinema play the role of a fig leaf at best and historical retrospectives are absent, Mubi takes a special path. In February it was announced that it would hold the international rights for Kelly Reichardt's westerns First cow has acquired one of the highlights of the previous year. In Great Britain the film will even be released in cinemas, plans for Austria will follow.

The unusual step shows that the distribution landscape will open in several directions and that platforms will also seek cooperation with cinemas. At Mubi, that makes sense because you see yourself as a label and can lure customers through the cinemas. With the Mubi Go service, the platform also sends its subscribers (initially only in Great Britain) to the right cinema every week - an interaction that benefits both sides.

Own content

Mubi now has headquarters not only in the USA, Great Britain and Germany, but also in Mexico and Malaysia. In addition to distribution, regional expansion is accompanied by an increased focus on producing films. The catchphrase of "vertical integration" also finds an open ear at Cakarel. "Sustainable and long-term differentiation requires you to produce your own content. That is essential," he said. The aim is to bring the first self-financed film onto the rails by 2023, coproductions such as Port Authority (2019) has been around for a while.

The ambitions are high, directors like Alfonso Cuaron, with his Roma Netflix won the main prize for the first time in Venice, and Cakarel even sees one of the next films by South Korean Oscar winner Bong Joon-ho in better hands with Mubi. If only because the competition hardly takes any money into their hands for the promotion of such work. For Netflix, such films are primarily a tool to be successful at award ceremonies, the economic focus is on cash-rich series such as The Crown.

Top-class items on offer

Mubi's direct competitors are more likely to be US companies like A24 or Neon, which come more from the sales and production side and have not yet established their own online platforms. They too rely on top-class genre and author films, with which they also inspire a young audience. With original online marketing tools, they expand the radius for films that used to be considered more difficult.

In any case, this sector can no longer be described as a niche, the range of which is still expandable on the Internet. Mubi's investments in independent film could create a new focus on the quality sector, which other imitators will follow.

That would be good news not only for film enthusiasts who do not feel at home in the algorithm-controlled offer, but also for filmmakers themselves who would like more caution in their work. (Dominik Kamalzadeh, April 1st, 2021)