Adobe announced this morning that its Primetime DRM solution supports emerging HTML 5 standards, with Firefox being the first browser in which it will be implemented. The move broadens Adobe's DRM approach beyond its traditional Flash-only focus. As Primetime DRM is adopted in other browsers (which Adobe said is forthcoming), content owners will be able to protect their premium online video content in web experiences, which could lead to less emphasis on today's approach of building standalone video apps.
I'd wager the two most spoken words in the media and entertainment industries these days are "devices" and "access." Executives are gripped by the idea that consumers must have access to their content across a growing universe of video-enabled devices. In fact, the premise of the industry's two most strategic initiatives - UltraViolet and TV Everywhere - is that by enabling access to content on multiple devices, traditional business models will either be reinvigorated (in UV's case for DVD purchases) or buttressed against attack (in TVE's case for pay-TV's multichannel bundle).
If only things were that straightforward. While it's undeniable that improved access on multiple devices is extremely valuable, especially for today's on-the-go viewer, the shortcoming of both UV and TVE is that neither addresses fundamental changes in consumer behaviors or preferences. Broader access is only half the battle here; the other half is devising the right business model that meets consumers' vastly changed expectations. Until this piece of the equation is solved, I doubt that either UV or TVE is going to have the industry's hoped-for impact.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 123rd edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Mar. 2, 2012. This week's podcast has a different format; instead of discussing one topic in depth, we touch on three areas - the new lawsuit against Aereo, Netflix's deal with Starz ending (and whether the "flix" is coming out of Netflix) and UltraViolet's strategy of using discs to drive adoption.
I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 117th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Jan. 20, 2012. In this week's podcast we dig into UltraViolet (UV), the digital library/format recently launched to enable consumers with multi-device streaming access to Hollywood movies.
It's still early days for UV, but there have been some hiccups in the rollout, with numerous longer-term challenges looming as we detail. Still, UV is a critical initiative to help studios reinvigorate the sell-through model that has declined in the wake of lower-cost options like Netflix, Redbox, Amazon, etc. and so there are strong incentives to make it successful. We also review new UV messaging that's rolling out and what's ahead for 2012. Listen in to learn more!
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Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 37th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for October 23rd, 2009.
This week Daisy and I discuss my post from yesterday, "In the Digital Era, Disney is Walking to the Beat of its Own Drummer," which picks up on a WSJ article from Wednesday about the company's new DRM initiative dubbed "Keychest." Disney appears to be taking a lone-wolf approach since other Hollywood studios and technology companies have rallied around DECE, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem. When combined with its ongoing resistance to TV Everywhere (while other cable networks jump on board), I argue in the post that Disney appears to be adopting a much more individualistic approach to how it envisions pricing and delivering its content in the digital era.
On the TV Everywhere topic, Daisy shares observations from a recent Beet.tv executive roundtable she covered, in which participants debated the concept's benefits to consumers. Daisy cites how the NYTimes.com isn't currently offering embeddable video as an example of how rights remain a key challenge for online video distribution. Online rights will be one of the factors determining how much content is made available in TV Everywhere at launch.
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Yesterday's WSJ article about Disney's new DRM initiative, dubbed "Keychest" was another sign that in the digital era, Disney keeps walking to the beat of its own drummer. Combine Keychest with Disney CEO Bob Iger's repeated skepticism about TV Everywhere and the need for Disney to receive incremental payments for online distribution and it's not hard to conclude that Disney envisions retaining much more control over how its content is delivered and priced going forward. It's also not hard to conclude that Disney's largest individual shareholder Steve Jobs's influence is being felt in the company's decision-making.
The Keychest DRM initiative in particular shows a real streak of separatism by Disney given the critical mass that DECE (the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem) has gained. DECE counts among its members multiple studios (Sony, Warner Bros., NBCU, Lionsgate, Fox), technology providers (Microsoft, Intel, Dolby, Philips, HP, Cisco, etc.) and delivery outlets (Comcast, Best Buy). Granted, DECE hasn't shown a whole lot of progress yet, but that's pretty much to be expected when you have this many big players at the table. Still, even getting all these companies to join forces is a hopeful sign of inter-industry collaboration.
And as the WSJ article underscores, the need to introduce some form of standardized DRM for movies in particular is growing more urgent. DVD sales, the industry's cash cow for years, are off by 25% at certain studios, yet movie downloads don't yet come close to filling the gap. Downloading is not only still a new experience for many, but it introduces key limitations (lack of portability, non-ubiquitous playback and confusing usage rights) that are significant inhibitors for future growth. Let's face it, not a lot of people are going to invest in building downloaded movie libraries when it's difficult or impossible to do something basic like play a movie on 2 different TV sets in their home. Downloading's issues need to be solved quickly if it is going to take off.
Meanwhile, Disney's posture on TV Everywhere has created real questions about what the company's goals are in online content distribution. VideoNuze readers know that I've been bullish on TV Everywhere because it's a win for the 3 main constituencies - incumbent video providers (cable operators and telcos), cable TV networks and consumers. By forcefully advocating a plan to offer TV Everywhere as a value-add to existing subscribers, with no incremental fees, video providers laid the logical foundation for cable networks not to expect incremental distribution fees ("We're not charging anything extra, so you shouldn't expect to either.").
From my point of view, rationale cable network executives should be excited with the prospect of TV Everywhere, as it provides them an on-ramp to online distribution (which they've been shut out of to date, given the absence of a sound online business model and fearing a backlash from paying distributors if they offered their content for free streaming) while preserving their incumbent dual revenue-stream approach and expanding their advertising potential.
Nonetheless, Disney seems unsatisfied. CEO Iger continues to float the idea of incremental payments for online access, even suggesting it will launch its own subscription services. That could mean consumers face the prospect of paying twice for the same content, which is unrealistic even for ESPN's vaunted sports coverage. Disney has seen success with ESPN 360, its premium online service, but it offers distinct content (supplementary pro-sports coverage and niche sports coverage) from its flagship channels. And it should be noted that broadband ISPs pay for 360, not consumers directly.
I tend to believe we're seeing Steve Jobs's influence behind the scenes with both Keychest and Disney's posture on TV Everywhere. That's pure speculation on my part I'll admit. But "Think Different" is more than a slogan for Jobs and Apple. The company's ability to succeed by pursuing a non-conformist, innovative path (e.g. iPods, iTunes, iPhones, Macs, etc.) in the face of market norms is beyond dispute. Emboldened by Apple's success and understanding the strength of Disney's franchises as an insider suggests Jobs would encourage Disney not to be constrained by nascent industry-wide initiatives. At a minimum Apple provides Disney with a pretty compelling case study of how to succeed by zigging when others are zagging.
No question, Disney has incredible brands, and is probably in the best position among major content providers to influence how things will unfold in the digital era. And its investment in Hulu shows it is willing (albeit belatedly), to align with joint industry initiatives. Still, its Keychest project and resistance to TV Everywhere raise the possibility that in pursuing its own path it could not only miss out on or delay benefiting from the efforts of others in the industry, but could also be over-reaching with the result being consumer confusion and discontent. Disney holds strong cards, but it needs to be careful how it plays them.
What do you think? Post a comment now.