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An industry executive speaks

In a series of Q&As, frontline practitioners in all facets of the packaged media and digital delivery industry share their views of things past, present and yet to come. It's the turn of LEON KOHLEN, CEO of Dutch authoring and post-production company i-Frame.

Where do you see your company's comparative advantage in this highly competitive market?

We have all the people and expertise in-house for DVD, Blu-ray and VOD. This enables us to be more efficient as well as highly competitive.

Amongst the range of services you offers, which one did grow in importance over the past 2 years, which one diminished, and which new service(s) will you be offering in the coming 2 years?

Our subtitling department grew and DVD diminished by 10%. We are focusing more on UltraViolet and VOD.

There is a lot of alarmist talks about the rapid demise of packaged media in the face of online delivery. What is your view as to how long discs will be around?

I still think there is a future for packaged media. Especially for Blu-ray since I'm still waiting for comparable picture and audio quality in the Dutch streaming services.

Given the slower than expected take-up of 3D, do you thing 3D is here to stay or consumer interest in stereoscopy is temporary?

3D has a future, we just need glasses-free 3D TV sets.

Do you think the consumer take-up of 3D depends on the arrival of glasses-free autostereoscopic systems. If yes, how many years do you believe consumers will have to wait for a high-quality glasses-free system to rival the existing shutter glasses 3D systems?

Yes. My guess is that it will take another 3-5 years to be as widely accepted as HD is now.

Cloud-based UltraViolet digital delivery has yet to make inroads in Europe. What needs to happen for consumers to embrace this digital service? Could UltraViolet be superseded by large retailers' own digital locker system like Tesco's Blinkbox?

UltraViolet has a very good chance to become a major player. They need to make it more user-friendly with a self-explanatory and clear GUI.

Do you think UltraViolet has the potential to increase sales of BD discs (as the studios intended) or be the death knell of the packaged media?

I do believe it will increase the sales of Blu-ray Discs for the next few years.

What do you see as the opportunities and pitfalls associated with Digital Copy on a disc?

The Digital Copy does take extra space on the disc. This will affect the overall quality of the BD or DVD encoded movie. Also, if you damage the disc, the Digital Copy is ruined as well.

How much of a revolution does smart TV represent, given that consumers are already comfortable using other screens (laptops, tablets and smartphones) to access Internet-delivered content?

No revolution at all, not before they take it all to the next level from a user experience and quality level.

Ultra high definition 4K TVs are coming to the market. Is this a response to consumers demanding a better quality picture or a push by CE manufacturers who need to introduce higher-margin products?

It is definitely a push by CE manufacturers who need to introduce higher-margin product or niche market.

Do you think 4K could be the shot of adrenalin Blu-ray needs given that a BD disc is best suited to bring ultra HD content to the home?


How to you see Hollywood squaring the circle between the inexorable fall of high-revenue producing packaged media and the unstoppable rise of low-revenue generating online digital delivery?

At the moment, I have the feeling content owners want to make a Blu-ray title too fancy with too many extras. Just make sure the movie or TV series is encoded in the best quality and at the same time put more effort in better set-top boxes with a good GUI and better quality video.

If you let your imagination run wild, what system, format, application aimed at delivering content to the home would you like to see implemented in 10 years time?

It all will be in the cloud with codecs beyond the quality and efficiency of H.265.


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On predicting the future

Predicting the future, let alone the future of packaged media, is a perilous exercise, and possibly counter-productive, as the exercise closes doors rather than keep them open, argues JEAN-LUC RENAUD, DVD Intelligence publisher. Consider that: Apple was left nearly for dead 15 years ago. Today, it became the world's most valuable technology company, topping Microsoft.

Le cinéma est une invention sans avenir (the cinema is an invention without any future) famously claimed the Lumière Brothers some 120 years ago. Well. The cinématographe grew into a big business, even bigger in times of economic crisis when people have little money to spend on any other business.

The advent of radio, then television, was to kill the cinema. With a plethora of digital TV channels, a huge DVD market, a wealth of online delivery options, a massive counterfeit underworld and illegal downloading on a large scale, cinema box office last year broke records!

The telephone was said to have no future when it came about. Today, 5 billion handsets are in use worldwide. People prioritize mobile phones over drinking water in many Third World countries.

No-one predicted the arrival of the iPod only one year before it broke loose in an unsuspecting market. Even fewer predicted it was going to revolutionise the economics of music distribution. Likewise, no-one saw the iPhone coming and even fewer forecast the birth of the developers' industry it ignited. And it changed the concept of mobile phone.

Make no mistake, the iPad will have a profound impact on the publishing world. It will bring new players, and smaller, perhaps more creative content creators.

And who predicted the revival of vinyl?

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