While I'd like to see more old and obscure films available on DVD, I can't help thinking of those gas stations that chain the restroom key to an old hubcap. On 4/22/07, Manfredi, Albert E <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Prospects heat up for 'download and burn' Dylan McGrath (04/16/2007 9:00 AM EDT) URL: http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=199000704 A highly anticipated technology that promises to lighten the burden on retail outlets stocking DVD titles, as well as to make older and more obscure content available in DVD format, is expected to hit stores later this year. Using a model similar to one-hour photo service, retailers would offer "download and burn" kiosks that would dramatically expand the range of available titles and fill customer orders in roughly 15 minutes. The concept has been kicking around for several years. The biggest obstacle was the content-scrambling system (CSS) used to encrypt DVDs, according to Jim Taylor, senior vice president and general manager of the advanced technology group at Sonic Solutions, a provider of software and applications for DVD authoring and content delivery. The major Hollywood studios finally agreed to amend the CSS early this year to support download-and-burn. The vast majority of DVDs sold today are either new releases or titles that have gained enduring popularity. Customers seeking older or less common titles are often unable to find them in stores, though some are available through Web retailers. According to Taylor, retailer feedback indicates that as many as half of customers who enter a store in search of a particular title walk out empty-handed. "It's clear there is a huge need here," he said. But retailers cannot afford to stock all available titles. And aside from the most popular classics, most films produced before the DVD era have never been made available in the format, because demand levels don't justify mass production. According to Taylor, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. has roughly 6,600 movies in its catalog, yet only about 1,300 have made it to DVD. Major retailers today might have a maximum of 500 DVD titles on hand. But a download-and-burn kiosk initially would offer about 5,000 titles and eventually provide many more. "It's like having the Internet in the store, in the sense of being able to get everything," said Tom Adams, founder of Adams Media Research (Carmel, Calif.). Sonic's Taylor spearheaded the effort through the DVD Forum to amend the CSS licensing agreement and gain the studios' approval. "It took a while to get everyone to agree and to make sure the studios were comfortable," he said. Some studios have been more accommodating than others, he said, noting that Time Warner Inc. chairman and CEO Richard Parsons announced late last year that the media giant would make films and TV shows available to download-and-burn services during 2007. New titles would likely be made available for download-and-burn on the same day the mass-produced DVDs hit stores. In January, Sonic Solutions (Novato, Calif.) announced Qflix, a technology-licensing program designed to enable the secure and legal burning of DVDs playable on standard-definition players. The company demonstrated the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show. Program participants range from drive manufacturers, disk-publishing technology companies and media solutions providers to Walgreens, the largest U.S. drug store chain. Indeed, Walgreens may be the first retailer to roll out download-and-burn. Taylor described the chain as "extremely interested" and said its digital-photo kiosks could be modified to provide the DVD service. Sonic is also working with kiosk manufacturers such as TitleMatch Entertainment Group Inc. (Commack, N.Y.) and MOD Systems (Seattle). Taylor estimated new standalone kiosks in stores would cost $15,000 to $35,000 each. The download-and-burn concept extends beyond kiosks. Wal-Mart offers a service that lets consumers download films formatted for portable media players and PCs. Industry watchers expect Wal-Mart and others to offer download-and-burn via PCs and broadband. The concept is also being billed as a custom-DVD-manufacturing solution for Web retailers. And, according to Bob Saffari, senior director of marketing for chip maker LSI Corp.'s advanced video products, cable set-top manufacturers are taking steps to incorporate DVD burners into their products. Despite the popularity of DVR services such as TiVo, he said, "people do like to put their hands on something they think they own." LSI last week introduced video IC family for the professional market (see story, page 53). Targeted apps include download-and-burn kiosks. "We are bullish about packaged media long term," analyst Adams said. "Even with the delivery of anything you want, people will still be buying disks. People like packaged media. People love to shop." 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