April 19, 2022
No celebration of the launch of DVD, and the quarter-century of digital entertainment it spawned, would be complete without a nod to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, the home entertainment trade organization that represents the world’s largest media and entertainment companies, consumer electronics manufacturers, platform providers and technology companies.
What was originally known as the DVD Video Group was established in June 1997, four months after DVD’s U.S. launch, with the goal of being the “singular source” of information about the format, Billboard observed at the time. The new group had 17 charter member companies, represented by executives from the software and hardware sides of the business, including Paul Culberg of Columbia TriStar Home Video, Mike Fidler of Sony Electronics, John Powers of Warner Home Video, Rusty Osterstock of Panasonic and Jeff Fink of LIVE Entertainment. The initial executive committee included President David Bishop, then with MGM/UA Home Video, and VP Steve Nickerson, then with Toshiba America Consumer Products, along with VP David Garber of LIVE and chairman Emiel Petrone, EVP with Philips Electronics. Amy Jo Smith was its executive director, with Marc Finer as technical director.
The current DEG board consists of companies spanning content owners, consumer electronics manufacturers, distribution platforms and their technology partners. Each of these segments is represented among the group’s officers, who include Jim Wuthrich of WarnerMedia (chair), Dan Cohen of Paramount Global Distribution Group (vice chair), Andrea Downing of PBS Distribution (CFO), Rick Hack of Intel (secretary) and Matt Strauss of NBCUniversal Media/Peacock (chair emeritus).
Charged with drumming up industry support as well as consumer awareness, the DVD Video Group played a key role in DVD becoming the fastest-growing product in consumer electronics history. When it first formed, only half the industry had gotten behind DVD. By 2001 every major studio and consumer electronics company was on board. At launch, consumer awareness of DVD was under 20%. By 2001 it was 90%.
Since then, the group, which adopted its current name in 2003, has consistently worked to enhance and promote home entertainment as it evolved from DVD into Blu-ray Disc and digital distribution, including streaming. Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Co., led the group as president and then chair from 2002 to 2009. He worked closely with Smith, now president and CEO, to refocus the group with a broader mission that he said at the time “reflects our organization’s forward-looking commitment to explore new issues and opportunities that relate to emerging technologies on the horizon.”
While the DEG has had many industry innovators at its helm — including Chapek, Strauss, Mike Fasulo of Sony Electronics, Mike Dunn of 20th Century Fox, and Ron Sanders of Warner Bros. — one leader has remained constant. Smith has led the organization since helping to establish it, with a mandate to regularly realign the group to meet the changing needs of the industry amid a stream of market disruptions. She is well known in the industry and is often the first call constituents make when looking to make a connection or find a new job.
Most recently, DEG’s “forward-looking commitment” to emerging technologies has focused on the heightened need for cross-industry collaboration as the volume of content created globally has exploded. During year two of the pandemic, the DEG created the Advanced Content Delivery Alliance (ACDA), a working community charged with addressing the advancements in technology to enable improved digital content delivery and a better consumer experience. It followed DEG’s Direct-to-Consumer Alliance (D2CA), which was established in 2019 to put a focus on companies with a direct-to-consumer offering. Both alliances have been beneficial in attracting new members to the DEG, which now counts 84 participating companies, the most in its 25-year history.
From the introduction of DVD through the current direct-to-consumer streaming boom, the DEG’s “proudest accomplishment is its ability to adjust to the changing dynamics of the industry to support member companies in their efforts to grow the industry and improve content delivery to fans,” says Smith. Looking ahead, Smith says this nimbleness in service to the industry will continue to be a priority that evolves along with new formats, platforms and technologies.