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Digital Road Map 2014

30 Dec, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel, Chris Tribbey, Angelique Flores

Content owners are experimenting with paths to the digital future

The major and independent studios have been looking for a digital road map for several years, but in 2013 the direction each would take would become more focused and more important than previous years.

Meanwhile, the digital landscape offered more variety than ever before. Whether it be a cloud-based ownership service such as UltraViolet, which ties in with physical disc and various retail sites; subscription video-on-demand or over-the–top services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime; or more differentiated digital delivery via apps and specialized online services, the digital world got ever more complicated.

Home Media Magazine surveyed the strategies of the major studios and several independents over the past few years for clues to the digital road map to the content future.


By Erik Gruenwedel
With a global box office topping $2.2 billion in 2013, Lionsgate eyes mining significant incremental home entertainment revenue in 2014, much of it due to evolving digital distribution channels.

During the studio’s most recent fiscal call, co-COO Steve Beeks reiterated industry data showcasing 50% growth in  electronic sellthrough revenue in the third quarter — much of it driven by the early digital release (ahead of packaged media) of movies across more than a dozen digital platforms. He said new electronic retailers such as Target Ticket would buttress the high-margin digital sellthrough market by making new-release movies available with UltraViolet functionality up to a month early for $14.99. In addition, Comcast bowed the cable industry’s first EST service featuring Lionsgate titles, among others.

“That’s going to accelerate growth in the EST marketplace even further,” he said, adding that early release of Lionsgate titles is done on “an opportunistic” basis by title. “We look at every single film differently and make a judgment call on what kind of film is going to benefit from [early release].”

With its The Hunger Games: Catching Fire still making its mark on the box office, app developer Merchlar marketed a mobile app for the film that offered bonus features when pointing the device at a movie poster.

Lionsgate’s YouTube fitness channel BeFit is also seeing success, having partnered with Scott Herman Fitness, a YouTube channel for men’s health and workouts. The addition of Scott Herman Fitness’s 400,000 subscribers brought BeFit’s network to more than 1 million total subscribers and more than 150 million total views — making BeFit the top fitness network on YouTube.

“This is our next step toward becoming a worldwide fitness brand,” said Kajsa Vikman, Lionsgate SVP and GM of fitness.

Meanwhile, Kaleidescape Oct. 1 signed Lionsgate to a multiyear content license deal, enabling owners of its disc system digital access to more than 2,000 movies and TV shows.

Lionsgate also finalized a pilot for Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Hulu also partnered with Lionsgate for the first time to release original comedy “Deadbeat,” which will stream in 2014 on Hulu and Hulu Plus.

“This provocative series is a perfect fit for Hulu’s audience and an exciting expansion of Lionsgate’s programming across digital platforms,” said Kevin Beggs, president of Lionsgate Television Group.

The studio realized a 21% increase in digital revenue in its most recent fiscal period.

“We’re now seeing digital home entertainment revenue becoming incremental margin as opposed to replacement margin,” Feltheimer said, alluding to the fact that digital revenue for Lionsgate is complementing — not substituting — disc sales.

With Microsoft’s Xbox One incorporating a Blu-ray Disc drive for the first time, the market opportunity for sales of BD movies and digital sellthrough is expected to expand accordingly, Beeks said.


Paramount Home Media Distribution

By Angelique Flores
Paramount Home Media Distribution has been on board with UltraViolet since the platform’s launch. In 2012, Paramount became the first studio to offer UltraViolet purchases of its films without the need for a disc.

“We believe that offering UV access is helping to bridge the gap between physical and digital ownership for consumers who still prefer to purchase a disc,” said Amy Reinhard, EVP and GM of domestic home media distribution for Paramount Pictures. “Research shows that as consumers see their digital lockers grow, they better understand the value of the service and invest in porting their libraries and content.”

Paramount’s first UltraViolet release was Paranormal Activity 3, which also debuted early as a digital download along with the other “Paranormal Activity” films, prior to its Jan. 24, 2012, disc release.

During 2013, Paramount increased its early release distribution of select titles. In August, the studio made Pain & Gain available digitally two weeks prior to its disc release, while Star Trek Into Darkness was available three weeks early.

The following month, Paramount pushed its early release window open wider when it bowed Adore Sept. 6, 2013, on video-on-demand the same day the film came out in theaters. The studio did it again Oct. 11, when it offered digital access to Ghost Team One the same day the independent horror comedy debuted in theaters.

Most recently, Paramount digitally released Bad Grandpa Jan. 3, ahead of its Jan. 28 release on disc.

“Early digital exclusives are something we’re watching closely at Paramount, and so far the results have been very positive,” Reinhard said. “We’re seeing strong gains on EST, which is our most profitable channel on a per transaction basis, and no signs of material cannibalization on our other platforms.”

Paramount also implemented its digital release strategy with its “mega” or “super” tickets, paired with theatrical ticket sales. The studio partnered with Regal Entertainment to offer Mega Tickets for World War Z in June. The $50 ticket enabled consumers to watch the movie early in theaters and included a high-def copy of the film with UltraViolet functionality when it was released at retail.

In November, Paramount offered the SuperTicket, this time with Fandango, on Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Those who purchased the $33 SuperTicket were able to watch the film two days early at AMC Theaters and received a pass code for a future Digital HD download of the film upon its home video release, a digital download of Wake Up Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie, a $5 concession card and a movie poster.

As for SVOD, the studio has several deals with services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

“Our goal is to maximize revenue on a title-by-title basis and give consumers access to our content how and when they want it,” Reinhard said. “An important part of that strategy has always been our licensing business — including SVOD — and it will continue to be important in the future.”

Philippe Dauman, CEO of Paramount parent company Viacom, said SVOD is “a growing and complementary avenue for our affiliate business.” He pointed out in a financial call that on the distribution side, the highlight of fiscal 2013 was the company’s multiyear deal with Amazon to stream library content on Prime Instant Video.

“It’s great marketing value for us as more people discover our brands. And Amazon is a great environment for our brands,” Dauman said. “If you watch Amazon Prime, you might want to buy a DVD, a SpongeBob toy. It’s a great environment for us.”


Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

By Chris Tribbey
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has been behind the cloud-based UltraViolet initiative since day one, but that’s only the beginning of the studio’s digital story.

Sony was the first to trial an early EST digital release window (Bad Teacher in 2011). The studio recently partnered with Walmart’s VOD service, Vudu, to offer bonuses and interactive features for select films (and launched digital movie gifting with them as well). And SPHE has been among the louder proponents of second -screen initiatives.

“We’re really focused on bringing value to the digital ownership experience,” said Jason Spivak, EVP of worldwide digital distribution for SPHE.

That starts with UltraViolet, which SPHE has paired with physical discs since its inception. Spivak said the buy once, play anywhere service is serving as an effective bridge between digital and physical, and there’s a reason the Blu-ray Disc combo packs are proving popular among consumers.

“The Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet combo pack gives consumers the best of all worlds,” he said. “You get the unmatched picture and sound quality of Blu-ray, combined with the ability to play anywhere with UltraViolet.”

And UltraViolet has also played an important role in the studio’s early EST strategy. Not only are consumers getting movies earlier than disc, they’re getting it enabled for playback everywhere.

“We think that it makes a lot of sense,” Spivak said of the early release window. “We do take a flexible approach in finding the right release pattern for each title. And while it does lead us consistently down the early EST path, we don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all strategy.”

This Is the End — which was released digitally weeks before disc — is the type of title that fits the early window, Spivak said. But it’s not just ‘R’-rated comedies for the younger, male audience that work: earlier in 2013, Sony released Hotel Transylvania for early digital purchase.

“That was super exciting for us because it really showed digital kind of growing up and becoming more of a mainstream product, that it’s more than the specific genres that appeal to the core digital consumer,” Spivak said.

Giving consumers more with their digital purchases is also something SPHE has taken a lead on. In late 2012 the studio launched Movie Touch for iPads, which offers added-value content while a film plays. The studio has also seen a huge (and positive) consumer response to second-screen apps for franchise titles, including The Smurfs and The Amazing Spider-Man.

“Second screen is an interesting part of that overall digital value proposition,” Spivak said. “It’s just one application, one way to make the digital experience better, to make it an every-screen experience. Ultimately the goal is to make sure the experience is enjoyed and optimized for every screen, and clearly the second screen is a part of that.”

Sony’s digital strategy covers all bases of course, and, again, different titles require different tactics. Serialized TV is proving especially popular on subscription VOD outlets, Spivak said.

“Subscription VOD is something consumers really value and have taken to, and what we’re seeing as the various services evolve, consumers are becoming more aware of different content experiences,” Spivak said.


20th Century Fox

By Chris Tribbey
It makes sense that the first studio to take on digital copy would be a digital pioneer across the board.

It was 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment that first introduced the idea of pairing physical with digital, debuting iTunes digital copy at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show with Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest.

“Now movie fans can easily transfer a free copy of the movie they purchase on DVD into iTunes,” Steve Jobs, the late Apple CEO, said of the offering then.

What Apple and Fox started has turned into the potential savior for the home entertainment industry, which is looking to digital to offset the decline in disc sales. Fox has been at the forefront of every industry digital endeavor, from UltraViolet and the second screen to early EST.

It was Fox that introduced the Digital HD brand (in 2012 with Prometheus) now used by every major studio to mark digital sellthrough branding. Fox Digital HD offers select titles in high-def across digital platforms, a full two weeks before they’re available on disc, and is now available in more than 100 territories.

Fox said Digital HD experienced double- and triple-digit growth internationally in 2013, and DreamWorks Animation’s Ann Daly recently said the early Digital HD release of The Croods (distributed by Fox) generated 15% more electronic sellthrough revenue than any other DreamWorks film to date.
“It is having a positive effect on our overall business,” she added.

21st Century Fox COO Chase Carey recently said the studio’s strategy with digital is simple: “Our goals are to grow market share through premium content, technology leadership and superior customer service.”

On the second-screen front, Fox has given consumers more bang for their digital buck, offering an augmented reality app for The Wolverine, a tie-in app for Epic (weeks before the film hit disc), a free companion app for the record-breaking release of The Bible: The Epic Miniseries, and apps for big-name titles such as Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, “Sons of Anarchy” and Prometheus. Fox was one of the studios to realize the potential here early, offering an application that opened up early access to the “Star Wars” saga Blu-ray Disc set’s bonus features.

Carey also stressed how important the SVOD market is for the studio both to work with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, and to find its own path for distributing its content.

“I think SVOD is an important business for us,” he said. “We’re actively engaged in it. It is one [area] we continue to aggressively pursue, certainly internationally. It’s probably an area in earlier growth stages as a number of players are just moving in.”

Recently, Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, said during a Consumer Electronics Association Industry Forum in Los Angeles that his studio would launch a Fox Innovation Lab, “a digital petri dish” with the goal of establishing a commercial relationship between the studio and consumer electronics and technology companies, creating a digital bridge between content and CE.

He proposed a Blu-ray Disc player that would have Ultra-HD playback capability and enough built-in storage to play an entire Blu-ray collection.
“Consumers would have the ability to copy their physical discs, and store and manage their entire digital library in one centralized location,” he said.


Universal Studios

By Erik Gruenwedel
Universal Studios Home Entertainment in December got a Christmas present when it said Despicable Me 2 posted the largest first-week sales of any title on record — $80 million in consumer spending revenue in its first week of release — and was on track to become the top-selling digital title of all time.
It got another boost when The NPD Group reported Universal’s The Lorax was among the top three movies on SVOD in 2013.

USHE joined other studios experimenting with early digital releases (ahead of packaged media) on select titles. Sci-fi thriller Oblivion was out on digital July 23, two weeks before the Aug. 6 disc releases.

Universal remains one of the few studios to meld significant digital functionality with Blu-ray releases beyond UltraViolet, including online access to extended bonus material — notably on recent releases Kick-Ass 2, Riddick, Fast & Furious 6 and 2 Guns.

“We are vigorously advocating for digital ownership. Our ability to provide the consumer with the utmost convenience, ease of use and confidence in digital is paramount to our success,” USHE president Craig Kornblau told Variety.

It’s also key to Kornblau’s job description after Universal upped his responsibilities to include all physical and digital sales, marketing and distribution operations for film and television. In what the studio called a “strategic realignment of its home entertainment functions intended to streamline operations and best leverage future growth opportunities,” Universal in 2013 merged the digital distribution division under Kornblau, who oversees domestic home entertainment operations for theatrical titles, NBC Universal’s TV properties, direct-to-video content and acquisitions.

Michael Bonner continues to lead the domestic digital distribution team, overseeing domestic distribution for film and television across all platforms, including VOD and EST. Bonner’s title changed to EVP of digital distribution for USHE. Also, Jessica Schell became EVP of new media and digital entertainment for Universal Pictures. She continues to oversee the company’s global expansion of Universal’s strategic relationships with digital companies across all platforms and leads the studio’s efforts to create new digital business opportunities.

Meanwhile, Mattel in August released Barbie Mariposa & the Fairy Princess into retail channels — the 26th direct-to-DVD Barbie animated movie. Notably, it was the first Barbie title featuring UltraViolet functionality.

Universal’s indie label, Focus Features, released an interactive screenplay of the Simon Pegg film Hot Fuzz to help promote the theatrical release The World’s End.

Finally, while it may appear to be a Netflix world, to NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke the business of over-the-top video distribution is apparently a non-issue.

“Personally, I’m skeptical over-the-top is a good business,” Burke said in September at an investor event in Beverly Hills, Calif. “I’ve looked at it many, many times, and with or without high-definition, 4K or new technologies, I’m not sure [OTT] is a real business.”

Interestingly, NBC Universal generates incremental revenue licensing content to OTT services such as Netflix. The media company also licenses content to Hulu Plus (which it co-owns) and Amazon Prime Instant Video, among others.


The Walt Disney Co.

By Angelique Flores
Disney has forged its own path in the digital delivery realm and is constantly evolving its digital platforms.

It launched Disney Digital Copy Plus June 11, 2013. After a consumer purchases a Disney film in any Blu-ray Disc or DVD configuration,
digitalcopyplus.com then facilitates the digital delivery of the movie through the consumer’s provider of choice — such as iTunes, Amazon Instant video or Vudu — and eliminates the need for a digital copy to be included in the disc package. The site works across all browsers, on computers and mobile devices.

Though it does not support UltraViolet along with the other major studios, Disney did join the studios in October 2013 in adopting the Digital HD branding on packaging that includes digital versions of titles.

“The release of our films as combo packs, which includes a digital copy, has been incredibly successful,” said Lori MacPherson, EVP of home entertainment and global product Management for The Walt Disney Co. “It provides a strong consumer proposition — a single purchase that serves all your viewing needs. This strategy has been instrumental in driving Blu-ray penetration as well as moving a physical consumer to at least try digital and be comfortable with it. It truly defines the digital bridge from the content perspective and increases the value of all formats.”

On the SVOD front, Disney in December 2012 inked a groundbreaking multiyear licensing agreement that will make Netflix the exclusive U.S. subscription television service for Disney’s first-run live-action and animated films in the pay window, beginning with those released theatrically in 2016.
Key in securing the Netflix deal was Janice Marinelli, who Disney promoted in October to president of Disney Studio global in-home and digital distribution and Disney ABC North America content distribution. Marinelli, who has headed domestic distribution at Disney-ABC Television since 1999, now oversees content distribution outside the theatrical window, including both physical and digital product, for films from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Touchstone.

Besides Netflix, the studio has a number of movie output deals with a wide range of distributors and platforms including cable, satellite TV, telcos and digital providers such as Apple’s iTunes, Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation, Google’s YouTube/Google Play, Toys ‘R’ Us Movies, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Video and Target Ticket. Disney also has agreements with Amazon Prime Instant Video and Comcast’s Streampix

“We are proponents of making our content available across all digital platforms and various business models where it makes sense to do so, including SVOD,” said Dan Cohen, EVP of pay television and digital for The Walt Disney Co. “These deals compliment our overall digital and windowing strategies.”
And when it comes to early digital windows, Disney first debuted an early digital release when it bowed Wreck-It Ralph digitally Feb. 12, 2013, before the March 5 disc release.

“One of our top priorities right now is early digital (in EST), and we have high expectations for its continued success,” Cohen said. “We have done early digital releases where it makes sense to do so on a case-by-case basis.”

Other digital strategies Disney employs are TV Everywhere apps, which the studio has created for a number of its television channels. Its Watch ABC app was the first TV Everywhere app offered by a major network whereby subscribers to Cox Communications, Charter Communications and AT&T U-verse have access to primetime and select local affiliate programing.

Disney made another splash with apps with its in-theater iPads apps for The Little Mermaid and The Nightmare Before Christmas, whereby iPad owners brought their device to showings of the film, downloaded an app and engaged with the movie in real time.


Warner Bros.

By Chris Tribbey
When your studio has the largest catalog of content and one of the largest slates of new-release content to get out there on a weekly basis, the digital strategy must be daunting.

Not for Warner Bros.

The studio tackles digital on several fronts, with multiple strategies and with more than 100 digital retailers. And it works. EST revenue is up big, and the studio booked an estimated $350 million in SVOD revenue in 2013.

The studio has been there since the launch of UltraViolet and is aggressive when it comes to direct-to-consumer efforts, with several direct outlets for digital: WBShop.com; Warner Archive (the studio’s manufacturing-on-demand business); Warner Archive Instant (catalog streaming); and WBUltra.com, the studio’s Flixster- and UltraViolet-connected digital store.

The studio is aggressive in marketing on Facebook, keeps up with consumers’ tastes on Fandango, and listens to consumer reactions following digital purchases across outlets. Warner’s been a huge proponent of the new UltraViolet-enabled disc-to-digital offering from retailers.

Warner Blu-ray Disc buyers have long been rewarded with online Q&As and exclusive digital features. The studio plans on digital before a hit (such as Man of Steel) even hits theatrical (offering EST as part of an advance ticket sale). Second-screen companion apps often debut before a Warner film hits theaters and stay long after the disc streets.

Internally, Warner is home to the industry’s first studio digital supply chain (the Digital End-to-End system), as well as Syndistro, a digital syndication distribution system for high-def content distribution.

In late December, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said the many arms of digital — from time-shifted viewing to subscription VOD — are “a powerful thing.”
“The big news, and it’s really good news, is that the world is going to video-on-demand,” he said. VOD has made content license rights more valuable and TV Everywhere has made content more accessible, he said.

Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara — a veteran home entertainment executive who celebrates a year at his new post in January — in May realigned its home entertainment operations, consolidating its digital strategy under Thomas Gewecke, chief digital officer and EVP of strategy and business development for Warner Bros. Entertainment.

“The digital revolution continues to change every aspect of the way we do business, and this strategic realignment will help us address those changes to better deliver our world-class content to the widest array of consumers across the globe,” Tsujihara said then in a statement.

Ron Sanders became president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution, where he has since seen added duties, overseeing global digital transactional businesses (EST and VOD) and was charged with coordinating the company’s various digital distribution strategies.


Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

By Erik Gruenwedel
When Anchor Bay in December said it signed Dolby Laboratories to encode movies and TV programs in the UltraViolet common file format (CFF) using Dolby Digital Plus, it topped a year-long effort by the distributor to embrace digital distribution, while staying true to its core packaged-media business.
A subsidiary of Starz LLC, Anchor Bay distributes the pay-TV content aggregator’s original programming in addition to third-party titles from The Weinstein Co. on disc and digital.

With the launch of UltraViolet CFF for downloads, Digital HD titles from Anchor Bay will feature surround sound from Dolby available on platforms such as Target Ticket, Best Buy’s CinemaNow and Walmart’s Vudu.com.

“The continued growth of the UltraViolet ecosystem is remarkable,” said Bill Clark, president of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Anchor Bay utilizes combo packs as well as pre-sale programs, which provide access to EST prior to street date on select titles. Additionally, Clark believes Anchor Bay will be the first distributor to launch in-store, pre-buy programs for EST with the Jan. 14 release of Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

“Anchor Bay is very supportive of early EST, and it has been our standard for some time now. In terms of pricing, its attractive price to the consumer provides a strong incentive to own vs. renting,” Clark said, adding that pricing is determined based on a variety of factors including specifics of a program and the title itself.

“Our release strategies are focused on maximizing the ultimate profitability for each title across all platforms which includes streaming,” he said.

Meanwhile, Starz Digital Media in September bowed the app Da Vinci’s Demons: The Apprentice, to coincide with the home video release of Starz’s Da Vinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season.



By Erik Gruenwedel
It’s been a busy 2013 for Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. The company expanded its home entertainment division’s profile through third-party license agreements and acquisitions.

Following the October acquisition of Vivendi Entertainment from Gaiam Inc., Cinedigm renamed the home entertainment unit Cindigm Entertainment Group (CEG), naming Bill Sondheim from Gaiam to head it.

The year began with Cinedigm announcing an “eight-figure” multiyear license deal with Netflix for many of its library movies and TV shows. Cinedigm said the Netflix agreement represented more than 10% of its $88 million 2013 fiscal year (which ended March 31) revenue.

In April, Cinedigm began offering free seven-minute opening clips of Arthur Newman on file-sharing network BitTorrent — days before the indie’s theatrical bow.

That same month, the distributor rebooted the 15-year-old Docurama brand with a seven-week, seven-film series of screenings in theaters across the country and an ad-supported streaming service of the films.

“One of the most dynamic — and of great interest to Cinedigm — has been the advent of ‘narrow cast’ content channels that allow consumers to enjoy and explore topics of interest,” Sondheim said.  “These channels — often referred to as OTT (over the top)  — will play a critical role in future content consumption.”

Sondheim said Cinedigm is planning to launch up to three more OTT channels in 2014.

Cinedigm in June signed a multiplatform home entertainment distribution agreement with Mondo Media, an Internet-based distributor of animation for teens and young adults.

“We see many developing revenue platforms across the entire digital spectrum,” Sondheim said.


Inception Media Group

By Erik Gruenwedel
Inception Media Group in 2013 upped its digital profile by looking abroad.

In April the Los Angeles-based distributor opened an office in London to capitalize on the growing digital market in the United Kingdom and gain British content suitable for domestic audiences. Inception features a catalog of approximately 100 movies and more than 2,500 hours of digital content encompassing feature films, episodic television series, documentaries and special interest programming.

To that end, it hired industry veteran Maura Ford to oversee and manage the distributor’s international digital distribution business. Inception has direct sales relationships with digital retailers such as iTunes, Netflix, Amazon and Google Play. Establishing a physical presence in Europe enhances its ability to offer distributors, television networks and independent producers a cost-effective way to make their content digitally available around the world.

“There is a growing demand among digital retailers for content suppliers to provide a steady flow of quality films and entertainment programming across all platforms,” said Burgess Wilson, EVP of operations at Inception. “While large distributors and studios negotiate their own direct deals, smaller distribution companies and independent producers generally require a champion who can represent and distribute their content to the various digital retailers and broadcast media platforms. Inception is perfectly positioned to be that champion."

Closer to home, Inception entered into a VOD and PPV distribution agreement with iN Demand for the company’s film and event programming. The agreement, covering the United States and Canada, significantly strengthens Inception’s North America VOD and PPV distribution capabilities.



By Erik Gruenwedel
Miramax ended 2013 with a bang after inking an agreement to produce movies with the studio’s founders, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who departed in 2005 to form The Weinstein Co.

Miramax significantly upped its digital profile over the summer through a license agreement with Amazon Prime Instant Video. The SVOD deal allows Prime members streaming access to Miramax’s catalog of more than 700 movies.

With the exception of SVOD, Miramax farms out home entertainment distribution of its catalog in packaged media and digital with Lionsgate.

In April, Miramax named Emily Briggs VP of digital sales. Briggs had been director of content acquisition with Netflix. It also added two sales executives to its global television and digital market sales team in response to the growing distribution of digital entertainment online.

Richard Tulk-Hart joined as SVP, head of TV sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), reporting to Beth Minehart, who this year was promoted to EVP of global digital,  and Joe Patrick, EVP of worldwide television, at Miramax. Jo Sherlock joined as VP of TV sales EMEA, reporting to Tulk-Hart.

Finally, Eurocinema, a transactional VOD platform specializing in foreign movies, in March signed a content license agreement with Miramax. New and catalog foreign-themed Miramax titles are available to Eurocinema’s subscribers priced from $3.95 to $4.99 each. Eurocinema is available to about 35 million viewers via Comcast, Cablevision, Charter, Dish Network and related multichannel video program distributors. Movies are available in their native language with English subtitles.

Minehart said Miramax remains “deeply focused” on working with digital platforms, which continue to grow and present opportunities for the distributor’s content.


Random Media

By Erik Gruenwedel
Upstart distributor Random Media eyes digital distribution a bit like a Rubik’s Cube.

Founder and CEO Eric Doctorow agrees that digital distribution, including subscription streaming, offers myriad opportunities to a mature packaged-media market. Yet those opportunities also present unique challenges — especially to distributors of independent content.

“Consumers have more choices than ever before to watch movies the way they want,” Doctorow said. “Our industry is adjusting. It’s a little bit like Fog of War. You think it’s going to unfold one way, and it unfolds differently. And being able to adjust to that reality is what makes it challenging.”

Random distributes all physical, digital and TV content through Cinedigm after that company acquired Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment this year.

“Physical is a very big business and still incredibly relevant for a quite a long while. Our strategy is to keep one foot in the physical business and one foot in the digital businesses,” Doctorow said. “Using sales comps from titles two years ago is not going to work anymore.”

As a result, Random Media aims to target films to specific audiences, ignoring content earmarked for the general consumer. Doctorow said general-interest titles are difficult to differentiate on digital platforms compared to niche and genre-specific fare, unless they are a studio franchise with a massive marketing budget.

He said the video store gave a platform to secondary films simply because they were on the shelf. Doctorow said a combination of packaging and artwork often ended with a sale or rental.

“How do you replicate the experience of browsing [the video store] and introduce customers to new product digitally?” he said.


RLJ Entertainment

By Erik Gruenwedel
RLJ Entertainment is focused on driving growth through the development of interest-based entertainment services for targeted audiences in niche genres.

One of the distributor’s biggest hits is “Foyle’s War.” Broadcast in the United States on Masterpiece Mystery, each episode also streams the next day on RLJ’s Acorn.TV, the first British TV-centric streaming service in North America.

“Foyle’s War” is also a notable seller on packaged media. Notably missing: UltraViolet. Sylvia George, president, U.S., for RLJ Entertainment, said the distributor remains on the fence regarding UltraViolet. She said RLJ is focusing on alternative channels instead.

“While the question of UltraViolet is still something we’re evaluating, we currently work with key retailers like Walmart (via Vudu.com) and Amazon to offer digital copies of select new releases with the purchase of a DVD or Blu-ray Disc,” she said.

The executive said RLJ isn’t jumping on the early digital release bandwagon, believing release windows are title specific, regardless of the distribution channel.

“We are very focused on strategic windowing that allows us to garner the most value from our content while maximizing consumer demand as early as possible,” she said.

For example, RLJ is keen on Acorn.TV. It is also partnering with outlets such as iTunes, Xbox and Netflix to bring early digital releases to targeted audiences in genres such as horror and comedy.

“When and how we make content available through these partners and channels varies depending on the type of programming and the audience. However, subscription streaming is very much a cornerstone of our overall strategy,” George said.

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