Warner exec backs disc-to-digital

Following the lead taken earlier in the week by the Chief Executive of parent company Time Warner, Warner Home Entertainment Group President Kevin Tsujihara has reiterated Warner’s intentions to persuade consumers to convert physical content into digital files, managing their movies online and steering them away from cheap rentals and piracy.

Addressing delegates at the Morgan Stanley technology, media and telecom conference in San Francisco, Tsujihara outlined the studio’s new initiative, disc-to-digital – which will allow consumers to use a variety of methods to turn their DVDs into digital copies stored in a virtual ‘cloud’ that they can watch on Internet-connected devices.

“’Disc-to-digital’ is the solution to unlock the value of existing libraries,” Tsujihara stated. “We’re leading industry efforts to launch services so consumers can convert libraries easily, safely and at reasonable prices.”

The first phase of ‘disc-to-digital’ would be to let DVD owners take their discs into stores that would handle the digital conversion. Subsequently, Internet retailers such as Amazon.com will email customers to offer digital copies of DVDs they previously bought. Eventually, consumers will be able to put DVDs into PCs or certain Blu-ray players that will upload a copy, similar to the way people turn music CDs into MP3 files.

Reports suggest that US retail giants Walmart and Best Buy have been approached to play a part in advising and assisting consumers on registration and conversion of physical content into the ecosystem.

Tsujihara didn’t reveal when the digital conversion phase would get under way, or give any indication of likely costs. According to Tsujihara, the potential audience is huge, with some 10 billion DVDs sold in the US and a similar amount overseas.

The initiative could also help promote the studio-backed UltraViolet common file format and digital rights authentication ecosystem. Echoing the support for UltraViolet expressed by Jeff Bewkes, chief executive of Warner Bros.’ parent company Time Warner, at the Deutsche Bank media and telecommunications conference, Tsujihara defended the shaky start for UltraViolet in October 2011, but added: “The launch wasn’t perfect, I’ll be the first one to admit it.”

Persuading consumers to keep buying movies and building collections in the digital age is crucial to the bottom line of Warner Bros. and Hollywood’s other major studios, Tsujihara revealed. Sales are 20 to 30 times more profitable than low-cost rentals from Redbox or Netflix.

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