Digital Media Pipeline: Making Digital a Premium Experience

Panelists at the Entertainment Merchants Association’s Digital Media Pipeline 2014 conference last week considered what defines a premium experience for consumers and how to best deliver it. Execs from Inception, MovieLabs, The Orchard and Sony discussed today’s variety of platforms, ways to keep consumers connected to content, meeting consumer demands, the need for a universal specification that supports multiple platforms, using social tools for search and discovery, and more.

The “Making Digital a Premium Experience” panel featured Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Rich Berger, senior vice president worldwide digital strategy and advanced platforms; Paul Davidson, senior vice president of film & TV for The Orchard; and Erik St. Anthony Pence, president and founder, Inception Digital Services. Craig Seidel, vice president of distribution services for MovieLabs moderated.

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“It all begins with the content and all the ways a consumer can access content,” Berger said to lead off the discussion.

Davidson, who recently joined The Orchard from Microsoft, suggested that behavior is a guide. “How,” he wonders, “does the consumer stay connected with the content?”

The corollary to Davidson’s question is what do content creators and distributors need to do to facilitate and keep the consumer connected.

Pence, whose company, Inception Digital Services provides digital distribution services, suggests that the premium experience includes a “relevant window and high quality.”

The discussion of premium experience did not focus on pricing. Although there are opportunities for price premiums, the panelists focused on the customer experience and how they engage and enjoy the content. As Sony’s Berger noted, when customers buy content, they want more and with ownership, they want everything.

Davidson noted that The Orchard has a program in place that enables a “Super Ticket” for moviegoers, which gives them access to additional content beyond the theatrical experience.

The transition of varied content types distributed across platforms begins to highlight the emerging multiplatform universe of entertainment. It also underscores that several previously independent segments now have the opportunity to cooperate and collaborate.

If multiple touch points exist for the audience, who controls the experience?

“The experience starts with content providers,” Pence said.

“It may start with the content providers but it does not end there,” added Berger. “Content providers try to add value, players provide good experiences. Content providers have limited control of end user experience.”

Where content providers can add value, they are taking some creative steps.

Pence sees significant opportunity ahead with a combination of premium content, premium experience and social media.

“Social is the key to discovery and search,” said Pence. “The single biggest consumer complaint is the difficulty in finding and discovering.”

The popularity of Twitch suggested to the panel the potential for community viewing experiences and, especially for children, the virtual playdate.

That digital distribution offers a unique opportunity to content creators and entertainment merchants goes without question, but how to best take advantage of it is an open field.

“We are looking to make the best experience on any platform,” said Berger. He added that the studio is working with MovieLabs to develop a universal specification so one master is created and serves across multiple platforms.

That is consistent with the philosophy behind UltraViolet, as a way to transcend rights after purchase.

Where does this lead?

“Sharing will be the next big thing,” said Davidson, mapping that opinion to the company’s extensive experience as a leading music distributor and his own background at Microsoft.

Pence laid down his marker on search and discovery.

“There will be more services, more interactivity, multiscreen experiences, 4K and beyond,” Berger envisioned. “And we will still be talking about what’s next.”