Digital Silos delay wireless entertainment adoption

RCR Wireless News
BURLINGAME, Calif. — The idea of wireless handsets and home consumer electronics being interconnected, seamlessly sharing content is one that would be a boom for many in the entertainment business, but rights and licensing issues remain a thorn that deflates the opportunity.

At last week’s Digital Living Room Summit, the topic kept creeping up in talks with content owners, electronics manufacturers, entertainment portals and software developers.

“We’re seeing a whole lot of confusion, which causes the consumer to not buy,” said Richard Bullwinkle, chief evangelist at Macrovision Corp.

The seemingly bottomless pool of digital media formats, license allowances and usage rights has driven down the value of new media, some argued. Indeed, vinyl records continue to maintain value to this day whereas a simple song or video clip purchased electronically might only work with one device type or worse yet, one company’s products.

Hollywood will have to drive whatever solution it sees best fit to enable consumers to take their media with them without thinking about all that.

“No one wants to get pigeonholed within a single silo,” said Shawn Ambwani, VP at Intertrust Technologies Corp.

Consumers aren’t going to come to the digital world in droves unless they can transfer their content among numerous devices, he said.

Ambwani said the task essentially calls for the industry to take an existing business model and transfer it to a virtual world, adding that different media types will require varying approaches.

“The use cases for music and movies are quite different,” he said, explaining the reason for different pricing schemes associated with each.

“Movies, the viewing experience is typically once or twice,” he added. “The majority of this stuff you want to watch once or twice.”

Robin Wilson, VP at Nagravision, said a neutral body would probably be best suited to sort out a set of standardized media formats and licensing rights. Today there are numerous standards bodies with no responsibility, he said. “You need a certification authority,” Wilson added.

Brad Hunt, a digital media consultant, talked about video fingerprinting technology that’s being developed to enable content filtering, rights management and monetization. Technology like this will be necessary for wireless devices and living room entertainment systems to work in sync, he said.

The largest move from Hollywood thus far has been the OpenMarket Initiative led by Sony Pictures Television International, he said. “These companies are coming together to create a DRM interoperability solution,” Hunt said.

The organization, which has mostly been operating in the background, plans to endorse several DRM formats that will all be part of an overarching framework, he said.

“The ID with all of these types of services, it almost has to be transparent to the consumer,” Hunt said.

The idea is that consumers’ sets of devices will all be registered with a domain service provider, which is responsible for fulfilling the DRM package across all devices — an approach called domain-based DRM. It’s all about moving away from copy management and toward domain management. “This is an electronic sell through of the content, but I’m not restricted from copying it,” Hunt explained.