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Replicators Increasingly Turn to Digital

26 Jan, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

Adapt or die.

After years of DVD decline, content owners have adapted, increasingly looking for digital outlets and solutions for their wares. And along with the content owners, the replicators have adapted as well. Once focused on disc, the three major replicators — Sony DADC, Cinram and Technicolor — all have made major inroads in the digital realm.

The global shift toward greater consumer demand for access and control over content, paired with all the new media platforms vying for consumer attention, has put the pressure on both content owners and replicators to, as one Sony DADC executive puts it: “navigate new digital complexities — and quickly.”

“As we continue to push more into digital arenas and the marriage of disc and digital experiences become more popular with consumers, we must help our customers deliver that seamless journey between physical and digital worlds,” said Dieter Daum, president and CEO of Sony DADC.

Calling them simple “replicators” today is no longer accurate, as they continue to adapt to the growing digital needs of their clients. Sony DADC’s launch of the LOOT Entertainment on Demand system, Cinram’s acquisition and leveraging of 1K Studios, and Technicolor’s launch of the M-GO digital consumer brand all are just recent examples of major digital moves by the big three.

Jim Bottoms, company director and co-founder of Futuresource Consulting, said that despite the low revenue margins for replicators in the digital space, it’s no surprise they’re branching out.

“I think the difference in the digital space is there are so many people looking to get into it, and looking to play a part, and that’s what you’re seeing with [replicators],” he said.

As the demand for supply chain solutions beyond disc grows, these companies’ innovations — from digital storage to targeting consumers directly — will only become more crucial as the home entertainment industry adapts to consumer demands.

Sony DADC Bolsters Digital Services

Two years ago Sony DADC saw what was coming and created its New Media Solutions group, with the express purpose of providing digital supply chain solutions. From creation to consumption, DADC’s global group provides services for content creation, automated digital distribution applications and marketplace services, covering movies, TV, music, games, marketing, social platforms and more.  

“This constantly evolving global media market demands a clear new vision to help content providers thrive,” Daum said. “The essence of Sony DADC New Media Solutions is simple: helping content owners maximize every consumer experience by providing innovative best-of-breed applications that create and distribute content in every format, on every channel and for every new device — anywhere in the world.

“We provide a simplified digital supply chain ecosystem for today’s media universe that can help the industry, and content creators capitalize on digital opportunities.”

The group designs menus, mobile applications, games and features for digital platforms, and provides direct-to-consumer and online retail services that leverage both cloud-based storage system UltraViolet and digital copy.

The group also provides market intelligence to help content owners know their consumers and plan accordingly.

DADC has dedicated teams focused on cross-platform development, the development of social network entertainment experiences, content distribution and application creation. The company’s incubation and innovations team works on marketing campaigns and the delivery of cross-platform media across every device.

Most recently Sony DADC’s LOOT — the internal development team in New Media Solutions — announced a new marriage of entertainment and social networking, creating real-time social experiences for feature films, TV, radio and live events in the PlayStation world. Using Crackle, Ustream and RadioIO channels, users can invite friends to share traditional entertainment experiences in a virtual goods environment and communicate with each other in real time.

Other digital moves by DADC in the past year include:

■ Sony DADC launched its movieIQ feature in Europe, bringing the real-time Blu-ray movie database feature overseas after two years of availability in the states. DADC’s creative services department has pride in movieIQ, which offers up-to-date information on cast and crew and trivia on production, music and soundtracks, all tied to scenes of the film.

For the French release L’homme qui voulait vivre sa vie, Sony DADC’s European Java programming team went a step further, designing and programming an on-disc quiz game and including director insights and scene commentary.

“Leveraging the reach of Sony DADC creative services’ global footprint, this international initiative was achieved by providing authoring, design and metadata content creation at the Paris facility, with movieIQ programming and development performed at the Salzburg and Los Angeles facilities,” Stewart Dickison, head of authoring and post-production, said at the time.

■ DADC grew its games services division, specifically in the areas of digital delivery, for both developers and content owners.

DADC’s biggest get was Ztorm, a service provider of digital distribution for movies and games, which chose DADC to help realize its digital rental model for games, giving consumers the ability to digitally rent games for a specific period of time before deciding whether or not to buy.

“Beside the ability to realize new and innovative business models requested by publishers, our gaming portfolio offers solutions from content enrichment, content monetization, content authentication through to market intelligence, with further services to be released and announced later this year,” Stefan Podhajski, director of product management at Sony DADC, said when the Ztorm agreement was announced. “These solutions ultimately provide the end-consumer with more flexibility and more value for money, adding downloadable content or try and buy options to the gaming experience.”

■ BBC Worldwide sought out DADC for its new digital distribution platform, aiming for an easier way to distribute and market its assets, equal to more than 74,000 hours of programming per year licensed across every platform imaginable.

“Leveraging our extensive experience and solutions with large studios, Sony DADC provides BBC Worldwide the ability to benefit from a true global digital supply chain platform that will standardize their inventory, provide real-time management of their fulfillment and support their impressive growth across all new opportunities,” said Trey Bradley, EVP of video supply chain services.

■ Via the LOOT Active Camera, DADC gave PlayStation users a new social experience allowing user-created content to be uploaded to both YouTube and PlayStation Home, the social gaming platform available on the PS3 system.

Cinram Becomes a Full-Service Provider

Cinram CEO Steve Brown put it simply when his company acquired Los Angeles-based digital media company 1K Studios: “In the ever-evolving digital landscape, we must adapt our business model to meet our partners’ needs,” he said. “No matter how the delivery methods change, consumers continue to demand exciting experiences. 1K Studios is proven in delivering innovative, creative and valuable digital content.”

And thus Cinram went from a simple replicator to a full-service provider of digital needs for its clients. Instead of just making theBlu-rays, now Cinram is making bonus features. Instead of watching others create media, now it has a hand in the gaming, digital, mobile and 3D space.

1K has done work for Paramount Home Media Distribution, Warner Home Video, HBO Video and Apple, covering everything from digital downloads, mobile and tablet applications and Blu-ray production, to stereoscopic 3D and social media apps. 

“We’re very enthusiastic about the prospects of our ideas and emerging businesses being fostered inside Cinram’s global business infrastructure,” said Matt Kennedy, co-founder of 1K Studios.

Bonus features for iTunes movies, interactive online and broadcast marketing materials for Star Trek, and Blu-ray bonuses for the upcoming James Bond collection, Bond 50, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, all have 1K’s fingerprints on them.

Also recently from Cinram:

■ Cinram partnered with social TV technology company Mobovivo to launch a new video applications platform for networks and studios.

“The Mobovivo partnership is the next step in our strategy of providing a single-source, end-to-end distribution and marketing solution for new and existing clients,” says Ben Higgins, SVP of business development and innovation for Cinram. “The focus of our combined capabilities is to expand our digital delivery to all devices, from the living room television to the smartphone or tablet.”

Mobovivo apps allow producers and broadcasters to market and monetize video across multiple platforms and screens. The apps include branded interface, digital lockers, digital rights management, promotional capabilities and social media integration.

■ The company adapted its home entertainment work to the realm of e-publishing, offering footage and interactive material for tablet reading for Penguin Books and Starz Digital Entertainment’s Pillars of the Earth: Amplified Edition.

Technicolor Helps Build Synergy in the Home

With a strong foothold in both the home and in the world of cinema, Technicolor’s digital goals sound simple enough: “Tie those two worlds together,” according to Benoit Joly, SVP of operational marketing for Technicolor.

“Our goal is to expand the creativity between the home, the studios and content creators, to ensure we deliver the best experience,” he said. “It’s content distribution in the home as well as delivering something new, enriching the experience.”

To get there, Technicolor has launched a wide range of digital solutions, for broadcast to Blu-ray, for bonuses and digital asset management, from IPTV to streaming, from software development kits to second-screen applications.

“We ensure that all these things work together, making sure all the devices in your home [have access], being able to send video from one device and even streaming outside of your home,” Joly said.

Technicolor is most proud of its set of Digital Home solutions. There’s MediaEncore, Technicolor’s home media gateway solution for service providers, allowing them to integrate broadband and broadcast services with media storage solutions; the cable and DSL MediaAccess set of modems and networking solutions from the company; the MediaPlay set of set-tops; and the MediaTouch tablets.

There’s also MediAffinity, the company’s digital content management platform, which allows content owners 24-7 access to their content.

“Clearly making the experience smooth, seamless, easy for the user [is a priority], and we put a lot of work into the user experience world,” Joly said. “You also need to secure the content and secure the access.”

Most recently at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier Technicolor launched its new consumer brand, M-GO, a free application that combines all of a consumers’ digital entertainment — movies, apps, music, live TV — into one location, via a cloud-based experience.

Featuring a new discovery engine and compatibility with smartphones and tablets, M-GO already has been picked up by Intel for its Ultrabooks, Samsung for its 2012 connected HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players, and Vizio for its tablets, connected HDTVs and Blu-ray players.

“Technicolor is at the intersection of content creation and distribution, and I strongly believe M-GO is the future of digital content discovery and delivery,” said Technicolor CEO Fred Rose.

Other digital noise made by Technicolor this past year:

■ For laptops, tablets and mobile devices, Technicolor launched MediaEcho, an application that synchronizes secondary content with Blu-ray, VOD and broadcast programming. Compatible with both Apple and Android devices, the application can be used to offer metadata on content and social media integration to second-screen devices, freeing up the main screen for the main content.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment was the first to take advantage of the technology, launching an interactive “Sons of Anarchy” application enabled by MediaEcho.

The Weinstein Co. would follow suit shortly after, making its Best Picture winner The King’s Speech the first feature film to employ MediaEcho, delivering trivia, commentary excerpts, behind-the-scenes information and social media integration to a second screen while the Blu-ray plays.

■ The company launched its 3D certification program for broadcasters and content creators, putting together a service that evaluates every single 3D shot against a 15-point quality control checklist.

■ Relativity Media chose Technicolor for its media management and digital delivery of content to consumers, citing Technicolor’s “broad commitment to the industry, their remarkable legacy and leading digital capabilities.”

■ The Juno Co., a leading children’s digital new-media company specializing in music education products, chose Technicolor for distribution and fulfillment of its products.

“The Juno Co.’s award-winning educational music products are inspiring, and the company’s business model keeps them at the forefront of the ever-changing digital media space,” Quentin Lilly, president of Technicolor Home Entertainment Services, said at the time.

■ Content owners got a new media storage solution from the company when it announced its Technicolor Media Storage Service, a pay-as-you-go, scalable and flexible cloud storage service, one that also was made available to distributors and content aggregators.

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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