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Here's what an Oscar nomination means to an independent studio

A promotional image for the documentary “Watani: My Homeland.”
Source: Watani: My Homeland
A promotional image for the documentary “Watani: My Homeland.”

The benefits of an Oscar nomination or win in a major category are no secret. Feature films from Hollywood's biggest studios often see a bump at the box office surrounding their Oscar nods, and producers, directors and actors forever have "Oscar winner" or "Oscar nominee" attached to their names in trailers and movie posters.

But for production companies outside of Hollywood's "big six" looking to gain a foothold, an Oscar nomination alone can be a truly transformational event.

ITN Productions is the creative and commercial arm of ITN, a British news and multimedia content company. While it's far from being a bootstrapped start-up — pulling in around $175 million in revenue in 2016 and operating since 1954 — ITN is working to expand its production arm and gain a larger footprint internationally.

On Sunday, it could do just that, by taking home its first Academy Award, after its first-ever nomination for a documentary short called "Watani: My Homeland."

The film documents the struggle of a family's escape from war-torn Syria, and has made headlines as President Donald Trump weighs changes to American immigration policy. The subject of the documentary, a Syrian refugee living in Germany, has said she plans to travel to Hollywood for the Oscars to support the film.

Regardless of whether the film takes home an Oscar on Sunday, ITN Productions managing director Mark Browning says the nomination alone is key to helping the company expand its U.S. operations. "It's not yet possible to say how much business has picked up since the nomination, as it's too early to put a financial number on it," Browning told CNBC. But, he added, "the Oscar nomination is about reputation awareness, which is priceless."

According to comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, a win or nomination for a lesser-known production company certainly has its benefits. The Oscars offer "prestige and bragging rights ... to leverage more work and a greater ability to draw talent in the future," he said.

ITN Productions launched its U.S. operations three years ago, and that arm of the business is on track to deliver 20 percent of the company's revenue in 2017. The company currently works with CBS, Discovery, A&E and History, among others, on a number of shows, and is looking to increase its U.S. exposure and brand recognition.

"We are very well-known internationally for our news business, but largely unknown for our productions business," said Browning, "which makes the Oscar nomination all the more timely as we are becoming increasingly part of the [American] media landscape."

Another company that has already entrenched itself in the media landscape and is looking to bolster its position with an Oscar win is Netflix. ITN will have to beat out two Netflix documentaries — "Extremis" and "The White Helmets" — to take home a gold statue on Sunday.