Digital-Delivery Standard in Sight

The Hollywood studios are taking the first steps in a process that could lead to an industry standard for master digital files used to send entertainment content to broadcasters, Internet sites and mobile service providers.

While the studios already have adopted a new standard -- the Digital Cinema Initiatives' DCI specifications -- that will be used to send movie files to theaters, there is no standard for the digital entertainment distributed to other platforms.

Another potential standard is being discussed, working under the umbrella of the nonprofit Entertainment Technology Center@USC. A digital video package, or DVP, as some have begun to refer to the proposed standard, could have a massive impact by generating efficiencies across the entertainment industry. It would not affect consumers but would be used in B2B settings where content providers such as studios and networks transmit their fare to content distributors including broadcasters and Web sites.

The ETC@USC held its first meeting with its studio members Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. on Monday, behind the scenes at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers Technical Conference and Exhibition in Hollywood. The parties discussed the potential for working together on a technical specification for such a format.

On Wednesday at the SMPTE confab, Walt Disney Studios proposed that the industry adopt a DVP standard.

"Presently, (studios) are being asked to deliver to content delivery systems in many different versions as well as many different file formats," Disney vp production technology Howard Lukk said during his address. "Because of this, it is expanding our inventory of content that we have to keep, creating asset-management issues and storage problems. It would simplify things if we could have a core industry standard."

He added that such a standard also could be used as a blueprint for equipment manufacturers that are building hardware for the entertainment industry.

"Everybody is trying to figure out how to deal with this issue," said David Wertheimer, CEO and executive director of ETC@USC. "One thing that is really clear is that we think it is imperative that as we embark on the effort, we need to have a lot of input from all stakeholders in the community. If we can get together and streamline these issues for multiple players, everybody wins."

Although no timetable has been set, further discussions are expected in the near future. It's anticipated that the process could mirror that which led to the DCI specification, with the studios making recommendations that SMPTE would formally put in place.

By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter