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Digital Hollywood Panelists Discuss Windowing and Multiple Platforms

16 Oct, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. — David Gale, EVP of cross media for MTV Networks, wishes more content and hardware companies would adopt his title instead of continuing to use “new” media.

He wasn’t getting much argument Oct. 16 during the first full day of Digital Hollywood.

“We’ve landed in a place where it’s extremely real from a studio perspective, extremely real for the consumer,” said Jim Underwood, EVP of corporate development for Sony Pictures Entertainment. “Consumers are interested in more than one model, and consumers are working with all their different choices.

“You can’t paint them all with one brush,” he added.

Subscription video, VOD, physical and digital sellthrough and download-to-own are all expected today to work across any device consumers have in hand. It’s not such a new media concept anymore, panelists agreed.

Offering content day-and-date digitally with theatrical isn’t new either, but releasing something before it hits theaters is a relatively new concept. The Weinstein Co. went that route with Bachelorette in August, releasing it weeks before theatrical on iTunes.

“It’s kind of scary and kind of exciting at the same time,” Gale said. “You can’t wait for what your audience is going to do; you’ve got to get ahead of it.”

Ira Rubenstein, EVP of digital marketing for 20th Century Fox, pointed to the recent digital-first success of Prometheus, which sold for $15 weeks ahead of disc.

“Traditionally, when a new window has popped up, it’s freaked the studios out,” he said.

The price for Prometheus helped drive electronic sellthrough, he said, but the early window had more to do with it.

“If you’re going to ask someone to own a piece of content, you need to make it special,” Underwood said. “Consumers are smart.”

If a consumer sees the same content side by side available for rent versus own, they’re more likely to do the math and take the rental, if there’s nothing to differentiate the two, he said.

“You have to give them multiple options,” Underwood said.

A day earlier during a panel at the Variety Entertainment and Technology Summit, panelists touched on some of the same subjects, with Mitch Singer, chief of digital strategy for Sony Pictures Technology, noting that much of this windowing is a result of piracy.

“I don’t think we’d be sitting here thinking about digital distribution if it wasn’t for piracy,” he said. “The idea that we have this piracy window, theatrical to home entertainment, has created some issues with our partners.”

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