eFilm, a year later: how “the free Netflix of libraries” has become an affordable and necessary cultural bet
A year ago now, when the pandemic that would paralyze 2020 was just a grim warning on the horizon, eFilm was born, a digital movie loan service based on the national library network. Its objective was then to return to reach the levels of audiovisual loans (in 2018 there were about ten million) of the beginning of the last decade, which had come close to double that figure.
Within a few weeks, the lockdown triggered the use of all streaming. Public services like museums and libraries redoubled their efforts to keep people company in their homes., Y experienced growth in their digital side, parallel to that experienced by streaming entertainment platforms, never seen before. The use and spirit of eFilm, however, was closer to public service institutions than to digital businesses.
For example, access required a library card, although all procedures could be done through the internet. In principle it could only be used in the communities of Asturias, the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Euskadi, Madrid, Murcia and Navarra, and the result of all the effort was translated into 20,000 movies available for free, many of them remarkably recent. The abundance of films born from an agreement with Filmin guaranteed the quality of almost all of them.
The platform used the main eFilm website as a portal to each of the regions. Although the bulk of the catalog is common, in each of the autonomous communities, librarians choose the content of what is accessible on each platform, giving, for example, preference to productions from each region. The result, in any case, is overwhelming.
We have talked to Celso Figueroa, CEO of eFilm, about this first year of the service. How it has evolved and grown, and what expectations do they have for 2021, although to begin with they tell us that this objective of recovering the loan levels of previous years has not been fully achieved. However, they can boast “in this year of considerable growth: more than one hundred thousand new users and almost half a million viewings.”
The reason for the limitations to reach more loans are, according to Figueroa, factors such as that “eFilm is not available in all autonomous communities and is a service for people with Internet. Physical DVDs in libraries still have many loans, and we think it’s very good, it is a great resource for those people who do not have Internet at home or who prefer that support, for whatever reasons. “But they recognize that” the consumption of streaming it grows every day, more and more people subscribe to different platforms and eFilm also brings quality cinema closer to the user of public libraries “
What’s new for the future of eFilm
For now, the team is focusing on improving the web, to the point of transforming the platform: “we have continued working on our new platform that we hope will be released next month, and that will bring a new design and more pleasant user experience, with recommended content, new routes to access content, improvements in player… “The objective is at all times to facilitate access to the service to as many people as possible:” With the new technology, smaller libraries will be able to use eFilm, with a universal login service that will facilitate and expand access “.
This revamped service has also expanded the number of communities where eFilm was available compared to a year ago. Now it reaches double, 14 communities (Asturias, Cantabria, Canary Islands, Catalonia, Basque Country (eLibrary), Madrid, Murcia, Navarra, Estremadura, The Rioja, Baleares, Castile and Leon Y Castilla la Mancha) and 3 municipalities (Torrelodones, Salamanca Y Vigo). The only limitation, apart from the areas that you still have to reach, is that you must be a member of a public library.
When we asked Figueroa for a balance of the year, he told us that “when the libraries closed we felt more than ever the importance of offering a good online service and we get a lot of gratitude from librarians, who could continue to serve digitally. “Their prospects for 2021 are” to continue growing and providing the best service with the launch of the new platform, with better technology and user experience, which will mean that users can watch movies more easily, as well as improve usability. “
And as icing on the cake, an extra: “at the beginning of March we launched the service for the libraries of the United States that will be called ‘The Shelf’. As its name suggests, it will be a large shelf with diverse digital content ranging from cinema and online theater to music, including children’s audiobooks. “Much innovation for an ambitious project that was a true cultural oasis during the pandemic. Everything indicates that 2021 will be at least as productive for eFilm.