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Macrovision Looks to Enable Media Downloading

19 Mar, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

Macrovision Corp. has long been known for its DVD copy protection and digital rights management efforts, giving those who would steal digital media fits at every turn. But things are changing.

“We've long been a disablement company,” said Microvision chief evangelist Richard Bullwinkle. “We are moving very quickly toward becoming an enablement company.”

A flurry of recent acquisitions by the company shows it's increasingly moving away from limiting access to media, and instead expanding it.

Mediabolic, a software provider focused on consumer electronics, and All Media Guide (AMG), an entertainment product database and metadata provider, both belong to Macrovision now, and if things go as planned, the company will soon fold in Gemstar TV Guide, a company whose on-screen menu software is widely used.

Paired with Macrovision's upcoming “Imagine Mood TV,” an interface intended to allow consumers to access all their digital content in one place (it also automates playlists and recommends content based on the user's past preferences), Macrovision is gearing up to be the leader in digitally connected living rooms.

It's all about preparing for what's next, Bullwinkle said.

“Ten years ago if I had told you I created a device that could pause and fast forward live TV, you'd think I was nuts,” he said. “If I had told you five years ago I could fit 5,000 songs in my pocket, you'd have thought I was nuts.”

With more and more digital download options away from the computer becoming available to consumers, Bullwinkle said Macrovision is trying to get ahead of the curve. Macrovision recently commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a consumer poll on digital media downloading, asking more than 2,250 U.S. adults about what they download, what they're willing to pay for downloadable media and on what devices they want their media.

Survey results

The results offered few surprises. Of the 1,000-plus consumers who admitted they download media from the Internet, 84% said music was their regular fare. Meanwhile 28% said they downloaded TV shows, followed by 15% for full-length movies.

“It's kind of what you expect,” Bullwinkle said. “The media that is easily distributed in the currently available pipes is downloaded the most. It's got the support structure in place.”

Slow download speeds are keeping consumers from regularly buying movies through digital channels, but as those speeds pick up, and things are made easier for video, “then it will pick up.”

The survey results showed that nearly 80% of those downloading media are doing it to their computer, with 50% saying they download media to their MP3 players. Additionally 14% said they download media to their cell phone, while only 9% said they download media to their TV.

Those habits will change, Bullwinkle predicts.

“Once the consumer starts asking ‘I can get music any time I want, why not TV, why not movies?' I think you'll see more downloads [to the TV],” he said.

The survey also asked how much people would be willing to pay for different entertainment. Respondents were willing to spend the most money on sporting events, with an average price of $8.50. Audio books came in at $6.13, while full-length movies had an average price of $4.66. TV episodes and individual songs were both under $2.

Bullwinkle said that as more is made available to consumers, the amount people will be willing to pay will change.

“If it was an a la carte world, when you can watch anything you want when you want to, I think they would pay more for TV and movies,” he said. “I think the idea of paying $70 for cable, for a bunch of channels I never watch, will one day be ludicrous to us, much in the same way paying $16 for a CD became ludicrous to us.”

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