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Virtual Report: SnagFilms Update; Bob Geldof's Peace Channel; factualTV; TrueTube

By Tom White

What with the woebegoings on Wall Street this week, one barely noticed the significant stirrings on the Web...
Let's start with SnagFilms, launched two months ago as an online distribution platform for docs, with the added dimension of encouraging viewers to snag a film and share it anywhere else on the Web. SnagFilms CEO Rick Ellen delivered the keynote address at this week's Independent Film Week in New York, proffering essentially a State of the Snag address.

Just in the past two months alone, according to a prepared statement, 10,000 online "theaters" have been opened for SnagFilms' 450 titles, SnagFilms' widgets have been seen more than 55 million times, and has had one million page views. Among SnagFilms' partners include Spout, the indie film community blog site, and Cinelan, the three-minute doc publisher. SnagFilms also owns indieWIRE, the indispensible nerve center of the indie community, which will be relaunching its website in time for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. In addition, SnagFilms secured a $210,000 grant from the John S. and James l. Knight Foundation to "help filmmakers encode their movies for digital distribution, reduce streaming costs, identify and reach online audiences passionate about their topics, and secure necessary intellectual property rights."

And if all that's not enough, SnagFilms will premiere two documentaries simultaneously with the Hamptons International Film Festival in October: Haze, by Pete Schuermann, about the death of a Colorado University fraternity pledge due to alcohol poisoning, and The End of America, the latest from Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern (The Devil Comes on Horseback; The Trials of Darryl Hunt), which utilizes as its basis a lecture by writer Naomi Wolf on her best-selling book of the same name.

Bob Geldof, the long-running musician/activist behind so many global causes, just launched an online channel devoted to peace and global conflict resolution, according to a report in The Guardian. The Peace Channel will feature documentary work provided by acclaimed production company Brook Lapping, as well as video reports, online discussions and opportunities for user-generated content. The Peace Channel, which debuted last week at the Point of Peace Summit in Norway, is supported by Ten Alps, Geldof's media company; the Peace Channel Foundation; the Kids Rights Foundation; the World Trade Centres Association; and the Norwegian government.

The Swedish and UK based Web-TV company factualTV just launched a global platform dedicated to finding factual programming on specific interests. The company currently owns over 2,500 licensed titles of factual and lifestyle television and documentaries. The service is accessible on, and most of the titles are available by free, ad-funded streaming, and can also be downloaded in a higher quality through a pay-per-view option. "We are following the trend within traditional television towards ever more niched channels," said factualTV CEO Daniel Hill, in a statement. "We take this one step further by introducing specific thematic sections within our service FactualTV. These sections are marketed internationally over the Internet to the respective target groups."

Also from the UK is TrueTube, a platform for discussion and debate of social issues via uploaded videos from around the world. Not a recent launch, but worth checking out.