SMPTE: Warners' Gewecke Says 'New Technology Is Here, the Product Is Not'

“The change is measured in months and quarters, not years,” the studio’s chief digital officer says.
Thomas Gewecke

Thomas Gewecke, chief digital officer and executive vp for strategy and business development at Warner Bros. Entertainment, asserted that now is the time for Hollywood to “redesign” entertainment by creating new products and services.

“This is no longer science fiction,” he said in a keynote Tuesday at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers annual technical conference and exhibition in Hollywood. “The technology is there; the product is not.”

He also stressed an urgency to act, saying, “the change is measured in months and quarters, not in years. … The challenge for a company of our size is to move fast enough.”

Gewecke urged the industry to broadly consider how content is distributed, what the product actually is, and how it finds audiences.

He stated high hopes for the potential of crowdfunding, highlighting the recent Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign, launched by series creator Rob Thomas to fund a movie version. More than 91,000 fans contributing to the project, which raised $5.7 million.

“It was about quantifying the number of fans,” he said. “They created a community and effectively [learned the level of interest] before making the movie.”

Gewecke emphasized the 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.”

To this end, he restated Warners’ commitment to the cloud-based UltraViolet service and its “anywhere, anytime” model; Warner’s Flixster movie site; and the Walmart Disc-to-Digital program. Of the later, he said, “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 also pointed to the studio’s participation in the Cineplex Superticket program that allows movie-goers to bundle a movie ticket with a pre-order for its digital copy. “It’s helping them make the purchase at a time when they are most aware of the movie,” Gewecke said.

The exec acknowledged that in the digital realm “it’s difficult to reproduce the serendipity of walking around looking at things [in stores]. … We are at the very beginning of reproducing that experience in the digital space. There are many technologies that could drive that.”

He added that this could involve “social discovery” features to help consumers find a “nuanced set of things. There’s more work to come in this area. I also think some of the advanced projection and display technologies offer the possibility of recreating the experience [of] walking around a showroom.”

Asked about 4K, Gewecke sees the move toward this format as gradual. “We are at the very beginning of the curve,” he said. “Obviously over the coming year we’ll see more adoption. … I think as we see more device [penetration] you’ll see more content.”

Looking further out, he said there’s potential in technology for augmented reality and other immersive experiences. He added that as this becomes more accessible in the mass market, “we can create fundamentally new consumer experiences.”


Twitter: @CGinLA