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The Sky is Changing

3 Mar, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's funny how the mood at the home entertainment divisions has changed in just the last few months.

As recently as the end of last year, everyone was talking about dueling high-definition optical disc formats, Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, and which one would ultimately prevail.

Now, with HD DVD's launch less than a month away, I'm getting the sense that no one cares.

Packaged media is yesterday; the buzz now is being generated by iPods and podcasts, digital this and download that.

The future of packaged media? Bleak, regardless of a next-generation format. DVD was the salvation of home video back in the not-so-distant late 1990s; today, it's as if nothing can save the packaged-media business.

Two recent studio shakeups have only added the proverbial fuel to the fire. Warner Home Video created an umbrella group for all its business units involved in bringing entertainment into the home, with DVD sharing the dais with online, wireless and emerging technologies. In the old days, pay-per-view used to be under home video; now, the two are on equal footing.

A short time after the Warner restructuring, Paramount Pictures moved its worldwide home entertainment president, Thomas Lesinski, to run the newly formed Paramount Digital Media Group.

The veteran home video executive, who helped birth DVD while at Warner under the auspices of Warren Lieberfarb, is now charged with shepherding the studio's expansion into new platforms for its filmed entertainment.

Remember when everyone started comparing videocassettes to 8-track tapes? Sorry to say, but even those red HD DVD and blue Blu-ray Disc software prototypes on display at last January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas looked old school compared to Apple's video iPod and other hot little gadgets that don't require physical software.

I'm going to go back to a phrase I used a lot last year: The sky is not falling. But it is changing, and we had better change with it.

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