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Studios Rally Behind Blu-ray

7 Mar, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

LA QUINTA, Calif. — In this new, unified Blu-ray world, four studio vice presidents discussed their Blu-ray Disc plans and the future of high-definition home entertainment at the 38th annual Content Delivery and Storage Forum (CDSA) March 7.

“We can't be complacent,” said Bill Mandel, VP of broadband technology for Universal Studios. “We really have to reinforce how Blu-ray is going to work [better] from what we had with DVD. We need to think about how we're going to keep packaged media relevant.”

Every major studio has lined up behind Blu-ray, recognizing that if high definition is to piggyback on the profitability of DVD, none of them can sit on the sidelines.

The studio representatives discussed a variety of topics beyond Blu-ray, including digital downloading and the inclusion of digital copies on DVD and Blu-ray discs, something Fox and Sony have taken the lead on.

“I think there are opportunities for both,” Don Eklund, EVP of advanced technologies for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said of optical discs and digital downloads. “Packaged media is still an efficient way to get a lot of data to customers … episodic shows are great for digital.

“As much as we see in the press right now that digital downloads are going to have our lunch soon, it's not [a reality].”

Eklund said it's easier to take a risk with digital copies on DVDs than it is for Blu-rays.

“We're going to keep experimenting with DVD [digital copies],” he said. “With Blu-ray we'd like to have more consistent standards. We might put ourselves in a smaller sandbox than we want to be in.”

Benn Carr, VP of new technology for Walt Disney Studios, said that all the studios are still working on making the extra features on Blu-ray attractive enough for consumers to choose high-def over standard DVD.

“BD Live is still very new to us,” he said of the Internet function of Blu-ray Discs. “The [high-def] formats were confusing for consumers. But beyond that, just understanding high definition generally has been a challenge and will continue to be a challenge.”

“We're still trying to grapple with what BD Live brings,” Eklund agreed.

Sven Davison, VP of content development and production for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, echoed their sentiments.

“How can we push the envelope on the format and give consumers [content] they couldn't get on DVD?” he said, adding that Fox will “aggressively” release more catalog titles on Blu-ray this year.

As for the future, none of the studio representatives expressed concern that Blu-ray will be replaced by downloads any time soon.

“I don't think it will be very big,” Mandel said. “I think the main thing is going to be Blu-ray.”

Carr said: “Our job is to get movies in front of consumers. Give us a reliable way to do that and we're there.

“Will online media replace physical media? Maybe. Some day. I don't think we have to be worried about the replacement of physical media for quite some time.”

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