February 4, 2007 10:01 pm

Film studios okay new DVD format

Major film studios have given their backing to a DVD format that will allow shops to compete better with online retailers by selling a far wider selection of films.

The DVD Download format features copyright-protection software that will allow stores to burn any one of thousands of movies on to a DVD while customers wait.

The format is expected to open the floodgates for stores to exploit the “long tail” of video content beyond bestsellers.

Online retailers had this market to themselves until now, selling less popular titles from their warehouses or through digital downloads.

Shops only have room for a few hundred top-selling titles on their shelves but DVD Download kiosks being introduced this year will be able to access thousands of digitised movies, burn them to disks and print labels and covers.

Film studios’ concerns over possible illegal copying of the disks had been a sticking point for the launch of the kiosks.

These fears have been overcome by the same content protection system already used on pre-recorded DVDs. This is being incorporated into the new standard, known as DVD-R for CSS Managed Recording, or “DVD Download”, according to its new logo. DVD-R is the format of the blank recordable media and CSS is the Content Scramble System of encryption that will be used.

The format received final approval last week from the DVD Forum, a standards body with more than 200 hardware, software and media companies as members including Columbia, Sony, Universal, Walt Disney and Warner Brothers.

Sonic Solutions, whose software is used to author about 80 per cent of the film industry’s DVDs, introduced a licensing and certification programme last month for its Qflix technology, which provides the tools for media companies and retailers to take advantage of the new standard. It is working with the Walgreens store chain and kiosk providers Lucidiom, MOD Systems, Polar Frog Digital, TitleMatch and YesVideo.

“There are 65,000 DVD titles available, but if you go to Wal-Mart you’ll see maybe 1,400,” said Anthony Bay, MOD Systems chairman.

“We’re providing a technology platform that allows retailers to compete with online in catering for the long tail or building just-in-time inventory.”

Time Warner is planning to launch a download-and-burn service this year and is digitising and preparing its library of more than 6,000 films.

“There are so many economic benefits for going to a digital inventory management and distribution system,” said Mark Ely, Sonic’s head of corporate strategy.

“In the next three to four years, we expect 15-20 per cent of DVDs will become on-demand rather than being displayed on retailers’ shelves.”

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