SPHE Chief Predicts Resurgance in Consumer Content Ownership

Reps from Lionsgate, Starz also weigh in on the topic at the Digital Hollywood conference Tuesday.

The DVD business may be in decline, but a resurgence of consumer content ownership driven by product and service enhancements is imminent, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment executive Jason Spivak said Tuesday at the Digital Hollywood conference.

Calling the notion that consumers don't want to own their digital content a "misconception," Spivak suggested that "there is an appetite for ownership. ... (But) we haven't done a good job of bringing value to ownership."

Spivak, senior vp worldwide digital distribution at Sony, thinks this will change because "we are doing a lot with enhanced extras and services to improve interoperability." He sees the rebound beginning sometime in the next 12 months.

The executive pointed to the launch this year of UltraViolet, the cloud-based, digital-rights management system that will essentially create an online virtual library for each consumer. The model allows a consumer to buy once and watch wherever and whenever when using a supported device, app or service.

"The proposition is simple," Spivak said, suggesting that this model has several advantages; it could be future-proof and take technology out of the equation when a consumer is making a purchasing decision.

"A problem in the digital business from day one has been the lack of standardization," said Curt Marvis, president of digital media at Lionsgate. "What UltraViolet is trying to do ... is create some standardization around the user experience. That is one of the big areas that continues to be vexing. I think consumer confusion has been and remains a barrier to digital taking off more that it has today."

Added John Penney, executive vp strategy & business development at Starz: "It's about letting you know that what you are buying can spread across your devices. ... We might have to think about new pricing models as customers begin to own content that flows around devices."

UltraViolet was developed by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, a consortium of more than 60 leading companies including manufacturers and Hollywood studios.

UltraViolet is expected to begin its U.S. rollout mid-year. Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. plan to begin offering UltraViolet content through digital online retailers and digital rights that come with packaged media.

Apple and Disney have not joined the DECE consortium.

Underscoring the importance of reaching a growing list of personal devices, Penney pointed out that more than 24 million tablets have shipped worldwide. Apple's iPad controls about 90% of that market, he said.