Warner Throws Retailers Digital Lifeline12 May, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group's innovative agreement with file-sharing service BitTorrent would appear to be giving packaged media the cold shoulder.
Recent forays by some studios and networks to repurpose TV content through alternative distribution channels all but ignored traditional outlets, which didn't sit well with many TV affiliates.
That's not going to happen to the home video retailer, cautioned Jim Wuthrich, SVP of digital distribution for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
“We love the DVD business,” Wuthrich said. “We would like to keep the DVD business as robust as it is today. But it is hard to compete with piracy continually growing. This is just one effort to preserve the whole retail ecosystem.”
Wuthrich said that in discussions with DVD retailers, he's found some feel they may be disenfranchised, even though he notes that just 5% of music sales last year went to Internet-based download services, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
As a result, Warner has begun acting as a de facto “Geek Squad” studio consultant, attempting to give retailers a lay of the digital frontier and the myriad ways they could get into the business.
Tips include explaining the digital ecosystem, who the players are and who might provide them with services for digital distribution (in-store downloads) and various business models they can compare with their businesses.
Wuthrich has been impressed by the number of retailers who are thinking about how to approach digital distribution at the retail level.
“We want to work with our traditional DVD retailers and help them grow into the digital side of the business,” Wuthrich said. “It is in our best interest to keep our current customers in this business and help them grow into the next evolution of it.”