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Rovi Readying Disc-to-Digital Service in the U.S. and Europe

31 Aug, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel, Chris Tribbey

Separate partnerships with Samsung, Warner Bros. and European retailers would enable consumers to use their DVDs to unlock a digital copy in a cloud-based virtual locker

Rovi Corp. is eying the launch of a proprietary digital copy platform that would enable consumers with a connected Samsung television or Blu-ray Disc player to repurpose their DVD movies through a digital file located in the UltraViolet cloud-based platform.

First announced last January at CES in Las Vegas, the media technology company is working with Warner Bros. and Samsung to bow the service through its Rovi Entertainment Store platform in the coming months, according to Paul Stathacopoulos, SVP of strategy at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Rovi. He declined to discuss a more definitive time frame.

Stathacopoulos said Samsung is incorporating a specific button on the remotes of select connected Blu-ray players and TVs, which, when activated, authenticate the DVD in the disc drive, notifying the user on the TV screen to the option of purchasing a digital copy stored in the cloud.

Consumers would be able to purchase the files in either standard- or high-definition for about $1.99 or $4.99, respectively, — without leaving the couch. Rovi hasn't disclosed offical pricing yet.

"Forming an elegant bridge between physical media and digital entertainment ... provides new ways for brick and mortar retailers, as well as online movie storefront operators to introduce more consumers to the benefits of cloud-based entertainment," said David Cook, GM of Rovi Entertainment Store in a statement. "As well as helping fuel the digital transition by turning consumers' physical DVD libraries into virtual shelves, the solution will serve as an ideal complement ... and a natural extension to our support of retailers wishing to participate in the UltraViolet ecosystem."

Stathacopoulos said Walmart’s rollout of a store-based, disc-to-digital program delayed the Rovi launch in the United States, prompting the company to bow the platform internationally with foreign retailers.

Walmart earlier this year launched a store-based disc-to-digital service that allows consumers to bring in their DVDs to gain access to an UltraViolet copy of the film for a fee through its Vudu digital service. All studios — with the exception of Walt Disney Studios — are participating in the program, which to date includes more than 5,000 titles.

We’re waiting for Samsung to pull the trigger in the United States, Stathacopoulos said, adding that the service will offer consumers a user-friendly “low friction” option to repurpose their DVD collections while giving studios an incremental revenue stream.

Meanwhile, Rovi said it is providing the backend technology enabling Dixons Retail — owner of retailers Currys and PC World in the United Kingdom and Ireland — to offer consumers the ability to purchase and rent movies and TV shows in the home via connected consumer electronics devices.

Rovi Entertainment Store enables Dixons’ KnowHow Movies service to give consumers access to catalog film, TV programming and new-release movies, which can be rented or purchased on an individual basis without subscription fees. The platform includes DivX Plus streaming, which is capable of offering titles in 1080p resolution, with subtitles, multiple language tracks, and fast-forward and rewind functionality.

KnowHow Movies can be accessed on up to five CE devices simultaneously, with users switching their viewing between them. For example, a user can begin watching a film by tablet during the evening train commute, then pause and resume watching it on their living room TV once at home.

“Collaborating with Rovi and our partners in the consumer electronics industry we will continue to expand the reach of our service to deliver the highest-quality entertainment experience possible on the broadest array of devices,” Niall O'Keeffe, KnowHow development director at Dixons Retail, said in a statement.

Rovi Aug. 23 signed a similar deal with Sainsbury’s in the U.K. that will allow the supermarket giant (1,000 stores) to launch an online streaming platform.

"Promoting entertainment experiences that are flexible [and] convenient ... are helping make over-the-top entertainment a mainstream activity," said Leander Carell, senior manager of technology at Rovi.

Finally, Rovi Aug. 31 was in Berlin at a trade show showcasing the disc-to-digital and DivX streaming platforms in a country well versed in digital entertainment, according to a study commissioned by the tech company.

The study found that German tech consumers are primarily male (71%) with more disposable income than the national average. This demo is twice as likely to own a tablet, have broadband connectivity and premium TV channels than the national average.

Indeed, 19% of connected device owners in Germany have Sky satellite TV versus the national average of 9%. In addition, 80% of device owners use connected features as well as pre-installed TV apps — downloading an average of six additional apps.

The report also found that access to content is a key driver to German consumer electronics buyers with 38% of users accessing connected features to browse content, schedule TV viewing (31%) or to find specific programs (24%).

Notably, 16% of connected owners said they spend less time on the Internet due to access apps on the TV, while 13% indicated that connected features prompt them to watch more TV. The German connected demographic spends on average 3.1 hours a day online at home — more than one-half hour longer than the average German consumer.

More than 51% of the connected demo own a tablet computer and have used a second screen to search online for information related to what they are viewing on TV (79%). Another 67% have viewed full-length movies via a second screen, while 66% have viewed video clips.

Stathacopoulos said Germany is the most hyper-connected country in the world due to the high percentage of IPTV household penetration. He said sustained adoption rates in Germany are up to three times higher than in the United States.

“We think this is the right time [to launch disc-to-digital],” he said.

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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