Hollywood urged to match content with tech innovation

Hollywood has been urged to ramp up the pace and redesign its content strategy to keep up with technology. Addressing the annual Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) technical conference and exhibition in Hollywood, Thomas Gewecke, chief digital officer and executive VP for strategy and business development at Warner Bros. Entertainment, said: “this is no longer science fiction. The technology is there; the product is not.”

Echoing an emerging theme of the conference, Gewecke called for urgent action, stating, “the change is measured in months and quarters, not in years. The challenge for a company of our size is to move fast enough.”

A key factor for the industry to consider, Gewecke suggested, was to put content distribution at the top of the agenda including defining what the product actually is and how to best find its target audiences.

“We need to make our content as ubiquitous as possible. It needs to be in as many places as possible so consumers have a legitimate way to access it,” he said.

The executive confirmed Warners’ commitment to the cloud-based UltraViolet service and its “anywhere, anytime” model in addition to Warner’s Flixster movie site and the Walmart Disc-to-Digital program. “There are 10 billion DVDs sitting on American shelves that have not been digitized. There’s an enormous amount of prior investment waiting to go up on the cloud,” he said.

CombiTel Managing Director, Eugene Razbash, said: "It's refreshing to see that at least one major studio is interested in online product innovation and digital content distribution. Unfortunately, the fundamental obstacle to wider adoption is the restrictive licensing principles of the big six studios; whom still favour physical products. That being the case we still see a significant number of titles not widely available on DVD. The rights owners are the gatekeepers of our "digital future", not distribution platforms or product managers, who are hamstrung by the legacy licensing practices." 

Another key theme of the conference, 4K was described by the executive as something that would be adopted gradually.

“We are at the very beginning of the curve. Obviously over the coming year we’ll see more adoption. … I think as we see more device [penetration] you’ll see more content,” he added.

SMPTE executive director Barbara Lange said the conference showcased creative approaches and innovation in the areas of 4K/UHDTV and new technology formats and distribution methods of content.

Over 2,000 people attended the technical conference and exhibition which boasted the highest concentration of 4K equipment displays in one place.

Gewecke said that merely five years ago it was rare for the viewing experience to be via a connected screen, yet today the majority of video displays were connected or connectable.

“When your screen is connected, you’re logged in to something. The television screen potentially knows who you are. It knows your viewing history if you’ve chosen to make that available. This is not just a sort of interesting thing from the consumer’s standpoint; it’s a fundamental revolution in what we can deliver to the screen. Today in principle the technology is there to allow a one-to-one experience, a one-to-one communication between the content owner, the content producer and the consumer who owns the screen,” Gewecke said.


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