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Six Questions: Steve Nickerson, President of Millennium Entertainment

28 Jan, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Steve Nickerson

Veteran home entertainment executive Steve Nickerson has seen the industry evolve from VHS to DVD, survive a format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc, and now embrace digital distribution.

As the new president of independent distributor Millennium Entertainment, Nickerson must juggle physical and digital formats along with oscillating release windows to maximize the return on each title.

Founded in 2010 by CEO Bill Lee, Millennium’s releases include Richard Linklater’s Bernie, starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey; The Paperboy with Zach Efron, released Jan. 22 on disc and digital; and Stolen, with Nicolas Cage. It releases So Undercover, with Miley Cyrus, on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and video-on-demand Feb. 5.

Nickerson honed his skills most recently heading home entertainment for “Twilight Saga” studio Summit Entertainment, until Lionsgate acquired it. At Summit, Nickerson was responsible for development, sales, marketing and distribution of all home entertainment products, helping the studio register more than $1 billion in net sales in less than four years.

Nickerson worked with major retailers to launch exclusive packaged-media releases of “Twilight” and introduced actors from the then-unknown vampire franchise at the 2007 Entertainment Merchants Association confab in Las Vegas.

Notably, Target in March will release the last “Twilight” movie with 50 minutes of exclusive content — a marketing ploy Nickerson helped refine by allowing separate retailers to obtain exclusive rights to a particular piece of the franchise release.

A graduate of Stanford University, Nickerson worked at Toshiba America for the launch of DVD and then joined Warner Home Video to help the studio formulate a high-definition disc strategy, including spearheading the short-lived HD DVD format. He also served as VP of sales and marketing for TV and home appliances at Samsung Electronics America.

• What will be the emphasis this year in home entertainment for Millennium: disc, digital or both?

Nickerson: We will be working very hard with both formats. While digital distribution is the growth area for the business, physical media is still the dominant format of choice for consumers. We want to make our content available to consumers no matter how they choose to view it, so we have to emphasize all market segments equally to maximize our total business.

• How big a role will Blu-ray play in retail releases?

Nickerson: The role of Blu-ray for each release will be determined by the genre and market appeal of the individual title. With Blu-ray still commanding a premium at retail we need to be certain that the product differentiation between DVD and BD is based on more than just picture quality. This includes structuring bonus material accordingly, as well as customizing releases with retailers.

• Will there be some reconfiguring of release windows involving theatrical and home entertainment? In other words, would you release select titles day-and-date with theatrical, shortly thereafter or even pre-box office?

Nickerson: The release patterns are determined for each film on an individual basis. While most of our films will follow a more “traditional” windows sequencing, where we feel a wider audience can be reached for a film, and it can be done in a more efficient and effective manner, we will explore alternate releasing strategies. And we will explore and execute these progressive strategies in collaboration with, and hopefully the cooperation of, our channel partners.

• There has been a push to jumpstart electronic sellthrough through earlier retail releases. Will Millennium do that?

Nickerson: If the earlier release timing for EST can help to grow the total overall market for specific titles, then we will strongly consider this approach for these titles.

• Are you working on any subscription video-on-demand license agreements? How important is SVOD to Millennium?

Nickerson: We currently release some of our titles through SVOD providers, and we believe that they play a positive role to a consumer segment that continues to grow.

• Will Millennium release titles — physical or digital — with UltraViolet functionality? Do you believe in cloud-based storage?

Nickerson: We have not released any UV titles to date. Overall, consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with cloud-based storage, and its benefits and risks, for different kinds of data and content. But as has been the case with many new technologies and platforms, the cost of entry in the early adoption stages is not well suited to the independent distributors, and that will probably play a big part in our decision-making process for UV during the next 12 to 18 months.

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