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Keeping It Simple

14 Feb, 2013 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Our home entertainment industry finished 2012 on a quite robust note — consumer spending was up for the first time in five years — and yet a dark cloud of uncertainty continues to hang over us.

One home executive in December smiled and said, “Well, we’ve had a pretty good year. I hope we can stick around for another one.”

She was only half-joking — our industry has frequently been in periods of transition in the past, but never before has transition been a perpetual state, as it is now. We’ve seen our industry go from VHS to DVD, from rental to sellthrough, from DVD to Blu-ray Disc.

But in the rapidly changing times in which we live, with consumers embracing multiple devices, multiple formats and multiple electronic delivery mechanisms — on top of that old standby, packaged media — it’s anyone’s guess what our home entertainment landscape will look like a year from now, much less five years down the road.

I was mulling things over the other day with a good friend who works in a senior position at a major studio. We agreed that our vision of an ideal scenario would be some sort of “one click” or “one tap” mechanism that would make consuming entertainment as easy as, say, opening the refrigerator — or turning on the TV.

Imagine a world where I can start watching a movie on my home theater system in the evening, but it gets too late and I need to turn the movie off and go to bed. The next morning, I tap my smartphone or iPad against my TV, and I’m able to pick up the movie at the exact spot I left off the night before. I watch a few minutes over breakfast, then drive to work. I’m really eager to watch the rest of the movie, so I tap my smartphone to my computer and the movie instantly appears on my monitor, so I can finish watching it while I pretend to work.

The movie’s done; I liked it so much I call my wife, who’s out of town visiting her mother, and tell her she’s got to see it, as well. I click once on my smartphone, and all of a sudden it’s on her smartphone, for easy viewing or a simple one-tap transfer to the TV in her mother’s house.

From a consumer standpoint, movie consumption would be so easy, so simple, so quick, that I’m sure the end result would be we’d all watch more movies. And that’s a big win for the studios, as well, since the more we watch, the more we buy or rent or stream.

The only way I can see us getting to this point is through UltraViolet. The concept of a digital storage locker, up in the cloud, that gives consumers instant access to purchased content anywhere, at any time, on any device is probably one of Hollywood’s brightest ideas, ever.

But we still have a ways to go. We still don’t have all studios participating, we still have too many different websites and pass codes, and we still have too many things to click, press and type in. So let’s streamline and simplify, and get everyone on board. Only then will that nasty cloud go away.

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