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Unlocking Disney's KeyChest

5 Jan, 2010 By: Billy Gil

Disney movies are about to get more portable.

Walt Disney Studios executives said the studio will roll out KeyChest by year's end, allowing its films — purchased either digitally or on disc with digital copy — the ability to travel across multiple platforms and devices.

At a Jan. 5 demonstration of its KeyChest initiative, Disney VP of digital distribution Kelly Summers acknowledged that getting legitimate digital delivery off the ground has been a chore, and that KeyChest would enable "interoperability," a buzz word indicating the ability to buy a movie in one place and access it elsewhere. For instance, a film purchased online through a service such as iTunes could then be pulled up on a smartphone or set-top box even if the platform were different, as long as both platforms use KeyChest, which is a "cloud-based" rights repository, using remote servers to exchange small bits of information with the platform to deliver the movie to the platform.

She said the goals of the initiative, which was developed internally at Disney, are to create widespread adoption of standards for digital media, based on existing Digital Rights Management (DRM), and to enable consumers and retailers alike to easily implement the "enabling technology."

Summers hoped to clear up confusion over KeyChest by delineating what it is not: a DRM method, a media server, a service exclusive to either rental or sellthrough, a retailer nor an entitiy operated directly by Disney. However, with Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) picking up steam — the parallel initiative, co-founded by Warner, Universal, Sony, Paramount and Fox, has settled on a file format and added members — could another kind of "format war" be on the horizon?

No, Summers said. She said KeyChest is not a competitor to DECE; rather, it can work with DECE.

Summers would not comment on what kind of revenue Disney could see from KeyChest. She said the goal of KeyChest is not to garner revenue directly, but rather to boost the digital marketplace overall.

She also would not comment if Apple was a part of the KeyChest initiative — Apple has been absent from DECE, which includes such distributors as Netflix as partners — but said a goal was to include other studios.

"If it's Disney only, there really isn't much value," she said.

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