In the era of international streaming wars spearheaded by Netflix, the first Greek platform to be purely dedicated to streaming, Cinobo, made a brave launch in spring 2020, amidst the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The brainchild of a young female academic biologist who developed a passion for the art of cinema as the result of growing up in her father’s video club, Cinobo created a stir among domestic viewers and filmmakers right from the outset.
“Cinobo’s vision is to truly become an alternative entertainment proposal. We aim at building and enhancing the cinephile community in Greece, not only online but also in the real world, and thus become part of the country’s cinematic activity”, founder and Managing Director, Dafni Bechtsi, tells Greek Reporter in an exclusive interview.
Starting up Cinobo
A young woman in her mid-20s lacking any business experience, Bechtsi had been flirting with the idea of creating a Netflix-style Greek streaming platform for cinephiles for some time already.
Yet she considered it something out of reach, believing that such an enterprise needed to be ventured upon by someone more experienced in the world of business.
“When I realized that the market was changing rapidly and nobody was taking that step in the Greek market, I decided that it was now or never”, Bechtsi recalls.
“Although I had developed problem-solving skills through my academic career, I experienced a sense of fear, because my background was nowhere near entrepreneurial. I didn’t know the industry, or the market, and, most importantly, I had no experience in corporate environments,” she admits.
Her father was a great help in the preparation, introducing her to industry insiders he knew from his video club business and providing valuable advice. Alexis Voukalis, now Cinobo’s E-commerce Manager, who shared the same love of cinema, was also key in the project development.
And while the business research, launch process and recruiting were all swinging into orbit, the young start-upper strove to secure the funding which would make her dream come true.
“It was indeed difficult. It was a risk. I knew people in business and I have family and friends who love cinema and are active entrepreneurs, so text message by text message and phone call by phone call, I ended up presenting the project to many people”, Bechtsi recounts.
That was how she ended up with a support network of 13 people who helped her kick-start Cinobo.
“After all, it is an attractive project to invest in. As we would be the first platform in Greece purely for streaming, we would be filling a gap in the Greek market of content providers. Many of our movies were not available anywhere else in the country, so it was all very straightforward,” she opines.
In her words, when you have a vision to achieve something, that is the prime drive that helps you overcome all the hurdles.
A rapidly expanding industry
Considering that the global SVoD streaming business had an annual turnover of 9.7 billion euros in 2019, one could only agree that streaming is currently by far the most rapidly expanding business in the audiovisual sector.
But over and above being a new approach to home entertainment, Bechtsi sees streaming platforms as the natural evolution of what video clubs, such as the one owned by her father, once were.
“All industries evolve, and I believe that streaming platforms are actually a very positive development for fighting content piracy. I am very happy that we now have this new medium for content streaming, which allows everyone involved in film making to receive a fair pay and hence sustain the industry”, she confers.
At its first anniversary in April, Cinobo had already exceeded its expectations. Although the volume of subscribers is not announced, she reveals that 1 in 4 of them appear active on the platform on a daily basis. The demographics are an equal share of men and women, from 18 to over 65.
“Without doubt, our total number of subscribers is not comparable to those of established streaming platforms in Greece, either those that are free to watch or the ones offered by the big national telcos. Nonetheless, we feel that we have a very dedicated subscribers’ base that loves us,” Bechtsi points out.
“They interact with us considerably, and we frequently receive some very moving messages. It is as though we have indeed offered them something they were seeking, so they feel part of it themselves and that’s very rewarding.”
Cinobo is becoming the Greek streaming alternative for cinephiles
With over 1000 titles currently available for viewing, Cinobo is, above all, different in the way that its content is selected, curated, and grouped together, with themes as diverse as Female Gaze and Hardcore Arthouse.
Its catalogue includes Academy-awarded films as well as winning titles from other festivals, alongside projects which might have not been awarded but have created a buzz; be it fiction movies, animation, or documentaries.
The selection prides itself on a large number of classic films and directors’ collections, from Truffaut and Kieslowski to Greek filmmakers Lanthimos and Cacoyannis.
In fact, the Greek library of Cinobo is singularly vast and diverse.
Bechtsi believes that this rich and rare content, in combination with the very specific curation process, are what makes Cinobo stand out.
“The streaming landscape is constantly evolving, bursting with all the more competition and options. Although the big providers offer vast quantities of content, the average viewer still spends too much time looking for movies of quality and that causes them frustration,” she says.
Hence, it was a strategic choice to prioritize attention on movie quality and selection.
“Our programmers ensure that our viewers won’t have to watch a single bad movie that insults their intelligence. Instead of offering thousands of titles bought in volume deals, we select our movies carefully one by one,” Bechtsi affirms.
A great amount of thought and effort also goes in the way that this content is proposed and communicated to the subscribers, through Cinobo’s own blog, articles, social media and newsletters.
Moving further and aiming higher
In true global streamer manner, Cinobo could consider co-funding or co-producing film projects in Greece in the future, as supporting Greek film making is a basic pillar of its vision.
“We want to support the Greek cinema industry and make it more accessible by giving the opportunity to new Greek directors to showcase their work”, Bechtsi emphasizes.
“We constantly receive submission applications from local filmmakers, which are evaluated by our programming team and if they meet some basic quality criteria, we always try to add them. We have many aspirations about how we could further boost this in the future”, she notes.
However, for the time being, the company is seeking more innovative and collaborative solutions in the local market.
“Given the streaming wars and the big international players, I believe that the key to the survival of local services are collaborations and outside-of-the-box actions. I hope that this is one of the things that I am able to pursue now that we have been established up to a point, and we are past our baby steps”, Bechtsi concludes.
In the meantime, Cinobo will be enacting its plan to meet its subscribers outside the platform too. During the summer, every subscriber will receive free tickets for a total of ten movie screenings in cinemas in Athens and Thessaloniki.