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Panel: Packaged Media to Last

10 Jan, 2007 By: Stephanie Prange

LAS VEGAS — Does the world need packaged media?

That's the question a panel at the Consumer Electronics Show sought to answer.

Speakers generally agreed that packaged media will be here for some time. Consumers are slow to give up tried and true media, noted Mary Coller Albert, chief marketing officer for studio-owned video-on-demand Web site Movielink.

“There are still LPs out there,” she said.

“Consumers like to have things they can save,” added Don Patrican, VP of Maxell, adding there are many different demographic groups that prefer packaged media. “I think it's going to take some time for packaged media to go away.”

Joseph Cantwell, VP of marketing, advanced services, for Starz Entertainment, said consumers expect to have both digital delivery and packaged media.

Audio content is different from video in that it is easier to deliver over the Internet, noted Stephanie Ethier, senior analyst at In-Stat.

“I don't think we have the pipes right now [for digital delivery of video to take over],” added moderator Jim Willcox, associate editor at Consumer Reports. He added that high-definition content will be even more difficult to send over the Internet, making packaged media a necessity in that realm for some time.

Speed also is an impediment, Cantwell noted.

“We're very much a third-world country in terms of speed of connection,” he said.

Another barrier to getting rid of packaged media is the need to transfer digital files to the TV. Panelists noted that Apple's announcement of a device to transfer digital video from the PC to the TV isn't the first such breakthrough.

“That solution is kind of here,” Albert said. “It's just less known and expensive.”

The solution also needs to be “plug and play,” Cantwell added. He said the Xbox 360 is a box that could solve that problem.

Movielink's Albert said her service's customers watch movies primarily on a computer, with 15% watching them on a TV. Starz' Cantwell said users of the company's Web VOD service Vongo mostly watch movies on the computer, but one-third watches them on a TV.

Cantwell said the subscription model at Starz's Vongo service is working well. He said subscribers are watching eight to 10 movies a month, and discovering classics along the way. He pointed to one customer who discovered Easy Rider on the service.

Movielink's Albert said that download-to-burn will be available on the service sometime in the first quarter, and that the company plans to offer products consumers can't find shrink-wrapped in their local Wal-mart.

Depth of catalog is an advantage of digital delivery, added Richard Lappenbusch of DDEX and Microsoft.

He also said that user-generated content (UGC) will “force the hand” of the studios in offering their content over the Internet as UGC begins to attract more and more eyeballs.Many panelists agreed that electronic delivery of movies needs to be cheaper to compete.“It will be awhile before it settles down to what the price will be,” Movielink's Albert said.

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