Discs With Digital Copies Span the Digital Divide25 Jan, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey
Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest
The battle between digital delivery and packaged media seems to have found a compromise: marriage.
Studios increasingly are putting digital copies of titles on the discs.
Warner Home Video and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have been the first to experiment with including digital copies of films with their discs, whether on the discs themselves or by including a code for a download.
Warner first toyed with the idea of including digital options with the Superman Returns DVD, in a Wal-Mart download exclusive in November 2006. Warner also tried out an “E-Copy” option for some of its movies, including 300, that let DVD buyers download a digital copy.
But it was Fox's special edition of Live Free or Die Hard last November that first included digital copy on the disc itself.
In December, Warner's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix included a digital copy for both PCs and portable devices. Then, on Jan. 15, Fox announced a deal with Apple that puts iTunes digital copies of movies on many Fox special-edition DVDs, beginning with Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest. The March 11 release of Hitman will be Fox's next DVD with the iTunes digital copy — and, in a Blu-ray first, Fox is adding a second disc with its release of Hitman that will include a digital copy of the movie.
“A DVD with a digital copy for Apple offers a simple way for consumers to satisfy their growing desire to watch what they want, when they want and, most importantly, how and where they want,” said Mike Dunn, worldwide president of 20th Century Fox.
Jim Wuthrich, SVP of digital distribution for Warner Bros., said Warner was “very pleased” with the fact that nearly to 100,000 people so far have taken advantage of the Harry Potter digital copy. Some future two-disc special editions will likely feature digital copies, he said.
“It's rewarding people for buying our product,” he said.
Also, during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment announced that certain future Blu-ray Discs would have a digital copy of the movie that can be moved to the PlayStation Portable, via the PlayStation 3.
It's likely only a matter of time before other studios follow, said Russ Crupnick, VP and senior industry analyst for The NPD Group.
“It's a way of potentially keeping up the value of the product, extending the life of physical media,” he said. “For the consumer it's getting your cake and eating it too. Now I don't have to go to a digital source for a portable copy.”
Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said the studio made its decision in part because of consumer demand.
“One of the most requested features DVD buyers have been asking for is the ability to get the movies they bought into their iTunes library,” he said.
Digital copies bundled with DVDs are a welcome alternative to piracy, said Krishnan Rajagopalan, VP of digital media technologies for the Motion Picture Association of America. “MPAA studios are focused on offering consumers more legitimate choices as to how, when and where they enjoy content,” she said. “The high level of online piracy demonstrates that there is demand for online access to movies, and studios are responding by offering legitimate alternatives to theft.”
One criticism is that the digital copies won't work on all devices.
“If it were to play on all devices, we would have to put it out there unprotected,” Warner's Wuthrich said. “We want to make it available to the widest audience possible, while still protecting our content.”
The Fox digital copy can be viewed on a computer, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and portable devices with Microsoft Windows' PlaysForSure. Warner's digital copies play on PCs or portable devices that handle PlaysForSure.
“I think this is a remarkable leap, actually,” said Richard Bullwinkle, chief evangelist for Macrovision. “It's not unreasonable for consumers to want this, and the studios are meeting the consumer demand.”