EXCLUSIVE: Several Australian organisations, including Telstra and IceTV, have signed up to a new consortium of Hollywood content providers that are set to launch a brand-new digital standard that will let consumers buy content online, including first-run movies, within days of them coming out of cinemas.Currently Australian consumers are locked out of content deals from such organisations as Netflix, Amazon, Movies online and even YouTube pay-as-you-go video deals because of licensing issues with local TV stations as well as concerns over digital rights issues in Australia.
The consortium, which is called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), aims to deliver content globally using a new (DRM) digital rights management system. Set to be hurt are organisations like Blockbuster or Netflix, which are currently selling hard copy DVDs of movies.
Last week the consortium cut a deal with Neustar to develop and manage the consortium’s Digital Rights Locker, which is a cloud-based authentication service and account management hub. This will provide consumers with access to digital entertainment online from anywhere in the world.
Company sources said that Digital Rights Locker will be launched in the second half of this year, with several Australian companies set to deliver content directly to consumers. “The service will speed up the delivery of content to a consumer. It will also eliminate the need for a movie to go on sale via a DVD store before it can be released online,” said a Telstra source.
“Security, scalability and flexibility are key requirements for us in building the digital locker service for DECE,” said Mitch Singer, chief technology officer at Sony Pictures and president of DECE. “Neustar has a track record for handling complex technological challenges across large operations, from governments to massive enterprises, in a secure, seamless and neutral manner.”
The new service, which insiders say will form the backbone of Telstra’s future content plans, will allow content creators to deliver content directly to a multitude of devices in the home, or stream them over the Internet to laptops, cell phones, or other electronic gear. “No matter where you are in the world, if you previously purchased Spider-Man 3, you should be able to access Spider-Man and stream it within days of it coming out of cinemas,” Mitch Singer, the group’s president, said in an interview.
According to BusinessWeek, this isn’t the first attempt to create standards and a set of devices where a consumer is guaranteed interoperability. Microsoft established its PlaysForSure rights scheme for digital music players as an alternative to the iPod ecosystem from Apple. But Microsoft’s attempt fizzled in 2007 after the software giant created its own Zune music players, which did not adhere to the standard.
Consortiums such as the Digital Living Network Alliance and Coral have been trying for years to create a framework of minimum technical specifications for devices in the home. Even Intel, which is joining the new group, flopped with its Viiv brand to get manufacturers and content providers to adhere to a specific set of guidelines.
The new DECE consortium said that they aim to boost sales of movies by giving people more flexibility in how they use their purchases. Consumers would have to register the devices on which they want to play content; similar to Apple’s approach with iTunes, but there would be fewer restrictions. “The same buy once, play everywhere attribute: There is no product in the marketplace today that offers it,” says Singer.
Colin O’Brien, the Executive Director of IceTV, said, “We are very impressed with the concept of what DECE is set to deliver. We plan to deliver content via our IceTV electronic program guide and to be able to deliver movies direct from Hollywood studios make sense. As an Australian organisation, our membership of this organisation makes sense as it keeps us in the loop with some very powerful content partners.”
The consortium plans to design a logo that will be placed on products and websites to let consumers know that those products and services are compatible with DECE standards.