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New Player Software Adds to DVD-Web Interaction

26 Sep, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

New features in a PC-based software media player could unleash new potential in DVD consumption, but the technology must overcome certain obstacles that hold back existing DVD-ROM technology.InterActual's enhanced DVD playback technology is the next step in DVD-Web interaction, offering consumers the opportunity to navigate online for constantly updated information.

The folks at PC media player software company InterActual are no strangers to the studios. The company has collaborated with several suppliers on producing some of the best-loved DVD-ROM features on titles like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. So it's little surprise that Warner, New Line and Buena Vista have just announced their enthusiastic support for InterActual's player technology.

“Our focus is to put the controls into the content provider's hands in terms of features,” said InterActual president and CEO Todd Collert.

The HTML-based technology lets the consumer search scenes for specific content using terms like a typical Internet search. At a demonstration of the technology, Collert searched The Matrix for the words “kung fu”and it returned a navigable index of scene thumbnails of all scenes with kung fu action.“I wanted to make it more of a campfire story that you can retell in different ways,” said InterActual founder and creative director Chris Brown. “There's this huge opportunity for interactivity.”

What's more, Collert said, InterActual's process lets studios update content on their existing inventory of recorded discs so they need not repress a title from scratch.

Online, studios could update features like cast bios and filmographies. That would extend the life of a release so consumers watching a disc with an Internet connection years later could see what the talent didafter the feature release, constantly adding value to the disc. The system also offers opportunities to target preference-based marketing to consumers, Collert said. For example, a studio could update trailers ona disc.

“If you are able to update the disc via the Internet, it's really a living, breathing thing,” said Mike Mulvihill, New Line Home Entertainment's VP of content development. “We have ROM material on titles going back to 1998. When this arrives, we will already have several updatable titles.”

While the features offer truly amazing opportunities, they also require widespread Internet connections to the DVD players or computer-to-TV connections in consumer households. At present, that can only be accomplished by home networking a PC Internet connection through the TV and using a PC-based player.

Collert said he's waiting for the DVD Forum to establish a standard for set-top technology before approaching player manufacturers to incorporate Interactual's player in their boxes. Meanwhile, the companyis licensing its technology to computer component companies like LSI Logic and Cirrus Logic.

Interactual's software can run on a dial-up connection, but consumers are typically loathe to tie-up the phone line so broadband adoption seems key. Internet analyst Emarketer estimates broadband adoption atjust 17 percent of Internet-wired homes in the United States.

Another holdup could be consumer preferences. In a recent consumer study of 600 DVD households conducted by Video Store Magazine market research, 70 percent of households said Web links were not important DVD features.

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