TW’s Bewkes: UltraViolet set to grow

Following the ‘wait-and-see’ approach to the UltraViolet digital film ownership initiative suggested by Disney CEO Bob Iger when discussing his company’s Q1 results, his Time Warner counterpart Jeff Bewkes has offered a much more positive assessment, suggesting that the company wouldn’t be against releasing UltraViolet titles earlier into the retail chain, provided there were safeguards in place against digital piracy.

Bewkes gave UltraViolet Time Warner’s continued support, believing it will only grow its user base in 2012. “It’s certainly early, but consumer response reinforces how much pent-up demand exists for an easy way to manage and access digital movie collections,” he told analysts during a conference call to discuss Time Warner’s Q4 results.

He suggested that the studios would sell digital downloads of their films earlier than they do now. “As the ability to secure the early releases, and we get more confident in that, then I think the whole industry will move towards earlier sell-through,” Bewkes said. “We don’t see any reason that has or will cannibalise theatrical. And we think it can fit in correctly with the current retail distribution system for physical.”

Bewkes said he was working to extend the delay before digital distributors and kiosk rental operators offered Warner Bros films, part of an effort to promote UltraViolet. “We’re trying to make digital ownership much more compelling for consumers,” he admitted.

Warner Bros, which includes Warner Home Video, will release all DVD and Blu-ray Disc titles in 2012 with UltraViolet compatibility.

Bewkes revealed that the company was looking to extend delays of new releases on street date access to rental kiosks and video stores, extending the 56-day embargo agreement with Netflix’s by-mail disc rental service to other distribution channels.

“We’ll keeping working to extend the window of kiosk providers and for brick-and-mortar retailers,” Bewkes said, noting that Warner’s role in creating the original 28-day embargo had contributed to the studio generating its best fiscal year in history with more than $1.1 billion in profit.

“That enabled our titles last year to significantly outperform comparable titles released by other studios without a window,” Bewkes said. “In 2012, we’ll keep pushing to define the next generation of business models for home entertainment. As part of that we are using windows to advantage our higher contribution, distribution channels.”

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