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Film and Streaming Video FAQ: Glossary

Answers to all your questions about film acquisitions and licensing, especially streaming.

Film Archives

Black and white images of stacks of film, the Library of Congress main hall, and shelves of film

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What is this guide?

This guide is a FAQ for all things streaming video, for bibliographers, selectors, librarians, and anyone interested in streaming video collections in libraries. This page includes a description of key services and terms, and the following pages address questions about acquisitions, rights, course use, reserves practices for streaming, film collections in the Penn Libraries, and the film distribution landscape for higher ed libraries and institutions.


JustWatch logo with yellow playbutton design

JustWatch is an essential streaming video directory which shows where films and television programs are available to stream as part of subscription access, or as online rentals or purchases. International in scope. Available as an app.

Directories and information sources

Streaming video directory similar to JustWatch.

The Internet Movie Database. An online database for films, television, other streaming content, and video games, with full cast details, plot summaries, reviews. Owned by Amazon.

The Academic Libraries Video Trust. A VHS digitization project of the Video Trust, formerly known as the National Media Market and Conference, a group of media librarians and buyers and educational distributors. Penn is a member of ALVT. ALVT has a Titles Listing database, in the open source ILS Koha, which notes commercial availability of VHS tapes and distributor information, if a work is available on DVD or for streaming. ALVT's mission is to share digitized files of threatened material in the now obsolete VHS format, so that libraries that own less common works on VHS do not have to invest in local digitization workflows to have access to a digital preservation copy of a work that they own as a VHS tape.

Silent Era
An encyclopedic guide to silent-era films, with information about DVD and Blu-ray releases and expert reviews. Includes entries on early films believed to be lost.


Major streaming platforms


An on-demand platform for universities and public libraries. Films from the Criterion Collection/Janus Films, First Run Features, Kino Lorber, Media Education Foundation, Cohen Film Collection, Neon, Zeitgeist, Oscilloscope Features. Acquired by e-book vendor Overdrive in 2021.


Academic Video Online (AVON)

Proquest/Alexander Street Press platform Academic Video Online includes feature film, documentaries, news footage, historical newsreels, and a range of primary source content. Includes film from the Criterion Collection, PBS, BBC, and Academy, Emmy, Peabody award winners, as well as silent films, serials, and early cinema shorts, including Buster Keaton, Fritz Lang, Chaplin, Murnau, and Lubitsch.


Digital Swank Campus

Feature films and documentaries. Educational film distribution privately owned by Swank family since 1937. Represents 75% of Hollywood and independent studios, includes Universal, Paramount, Sony, United Artists, MGM, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, Disney, HBO films. Does not include Fox Searchlight.


Criterion Pics USA

Feature films. Non-theatrical film distribution for remaining Hollywood studios: 20th Century Studios, SearchLight Pictures, Fox. Note: this is Criterion Pictures, not to be confused with The Criterion Collection or the streaming video-on-demand service The Criterion Channel which are run by Janus Films.



Streaming platform for independent, international, and documentary films from Grasshopper Film, Canyon Cinema, and MTV Documentary Films.


Films on Demand

Infobase/Films Media Group platform Films on Demand includes documentaries, feature film, television programming from networks and cable providers. Includes Films for Arts & Humanities, A&E, Discovery, CNN, and some PBS programming. We subscribe to the World Cinema Collection on an annual basis, but not the full Films on Demand platform.



Independent film and documentary platform, which we have purchased as of April 2024. Participating distributors are Bullfrog Films, Icarus Films, First Run Features, Film Movement, KimStim, Women Make Movers (selected titles) and others.


Pragda Stream

Pragda is the leading educational film distributor for the newest Latin American, Spanish, and Latinx cinema.


Film Platform

Documentary and feature film platform with ~500 films. Israel-based and many documentary films related to Israel, Palestine, Middle Eastern, and Near Eastern Studies. Partnership with U.S.-based ro*co films. Older and backlist titles may also be available in Academic Video Online.

Major video-on-demand services

Acorn TV

Owned by RLJ Entertainment, formerly Image Entertainment. Known as major platform for British films and programming.



Amazon Prime Video is Amazon's video on demand service. It features films and programs produced by Amazon Studios that are exclusive to the service.



Streaming service of AMC Networks, with content from AMC, IFC, BBC and others.


Apple TV+

Apple's subscription video-on-demand service. Features some original programming produced by Apple.



Streaming service "dedicated to pan-Asian entertainment."



BBC venture featuring current and past series and films from UK public broadcasters. Shutting down in April 2024 and folding into ITVX.



Streaming video platform formerly majority-owned by Sony, featuring Sony Pictures entertainment. Now run by Chicken Soup for the Soul self-help and publishing company.


The Criterion Channel

Janus Films streaming video platform for the full catalog of Criterion Collection titles. Kanopy offers 400+ Criterion Collection films, but the full collection is available to home viewers on the The Criterion Channel. Not to be confused with Criterion Pictures USA, which is a separate company that provides non-theatrical streaming licenses.



Sony-owned streaming service for anime, manga, and East Asian drama.



LGBT+ streaming service marketed to gay men. Philadelphia-based and owned by TLA Entertainment Group.



Video-on-demand service with Disney-produced films and television series, with access to content from Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and NatGeo.



Streaming service with eclectic mix of "independent films, classics, silent films, foreign films, documentaries and shorts." Acquired by Cinedigm in 2021.



Amazon's ad-supported video-on-demand platform, with freely available movies. Has a standalone app.



Platform with mostly live sports--NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL--but also network television programs and movies.



Major streaming video-on-demand service with original programming. Fully owned by Disney as of 2024, Disney has plans to bundle with Disney+.


iQIYI (爱奇艺)

Chinese online video platform. Netflix offers some of its original content to iQIYI for viewers in mainland China. Owned by Chinese search engine Baidu.


Kino Now

Kino Lorber's online platform with world cinema, documentary films, and selected classics.


Max (formerly HBO Max)

Subscription video-on-demand service with original programming, including HBO documentaries and originals, which are usually available to license through Swank Digital Campus.


MGM+ (formerly Epix Now)

Older movies and television series, owned by a subsidiary of MGM, with titles from MGM, Paramount, and Lionsgate.



Streaming platform for global cinema. London-based. Also produces and distributes original programming.



The streaming and production giant and Fortune 500 company with annual revenue of $25B. Produces an enormous quantity of original programming since 2013.



Subscription video-on-demand service formerly known as CBS All Access. Owned by National Amusements, Inc., formerly ViacomCBS.



Subscription video-on-demand services owned and operated by NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast.



A network with a subscription streaming service showing feature films and original television. Subsidiary of Paramount, owned by National Amusements, Inc., formerly ViacomCBS.



Subscription-based video-on-demand service focusing on horror. Owned by AMC Networks. Integrated with Amazon Prime.



Cable network and video-on-demand service with movies and original programming, a subsidiary of Lionsgate.


Sundance Now

Video-on-demand service featuring films screened at Sundance, independent film, serial television. Owned by AMC Networks.



Cable channel and video-on-demand focused on science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Owned by NBCUniversal, which operates as a division of Comcast.



Advertising-supported video-on demand (AVOD) service owned by Fox. Has a devoted following for its inclusion of classic and cult films, including a large amount of schlocky, mediocre, and B-movie titles, although it is frequently criticized for its poor user interface.


ViX (formerly Pantaya)

Latin American and Spanish-language streaming service with original Latin American programming and dubbed Lionsgate films. Owned by TelevisaUnivision, a Spanish-language media company.



Longstanding major streaming platform and digital video store which began as a streaming solution for high-res movies available at BestBuy, then sold to Walmart. Now owned by NBCUniversal subsidiary Fandango.



Video and social media platform with streaming access to digital rentals of film and television.

Subject Librarian



Alexander Street Press, a subsidiary of ProQuest



Ad-supported video-on-demand


The Criterion Channel

Streaming platform for Criterion Collection releases by Janus Films


Criterion Collection

Branded series of canonical, remastered films on DVD released by Janus Films and featured on The Criterion Channel.


Criterion Pics USA

A non-theatrical streaming provider for feature films and television. Mostly Fox Searchlight and studio films whose rights are not managed by Swank. Not related to Criterion Collection.


Digital cinema package

A series of video, audio, assets and XML files which are put into a package called a "composition." This is a standard collection of files for a work that distributors can supply to a streaming platform or broadcaster.



Digital streaming license



Important streaming directory which is useful for locating current streaming providers for a given film



Cloud services video vendor that offers an online video platform, and which Penn Libraries uses to host digital files of films which we have licensed or purchased with perpetual rights.


Life of file

The longevity of current media file formats is not known, but distributors sometimes will sell digital files of films with educational rights or public performance rights for "life of file" or until the file is no longer readable, usable, accessible, etc.


Midwest Tape

Midwest Tape is our go-to vendor for physical media who offer us bulk discounts, convenient invoicing, and shelf-ready materials. They also own and operate the streaming platform for public libraries, Hoopla. 



Patron-driven acquisition a.k.a. demand-driven acquisition. Several years ago we had a PDA plan with streaming platform Kanopy in which we had access to select suppliers' films, and we were automatically invoiced after patrons triggered the purchase of a streaming license, after 4 viewings lasting more than 40 seconds each. The demand and the cost became unsustainable. Today Kanopy still offers a plan that they call "smart PDA" with a bit more oversight to determine limits for which films are available, but there are still concerns about demand and cost.


Perpetual access

See "Life of file"



Public performance rights. If a film is to be shown in a venue outside the home, to a group, on campus or in another venue, the organizer of the screening needs to purchase PPR in addition to a license or physical media. Penn Libraries purchase physical media and DSLs bundled with PPR when necessary. We do not purchase standalone PPR for campus or student events, and organizers need to cover the costs if they are showing a film that belongs to the library collection in a public venue. It is not necessary for instructors to obtain PPR for films shown in the classroom or films that individual students watch online for a course.



Subscription video-on-demand

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