Edelman Elected Treasurer, Gutierrez Secretary of EMA

Michele Edelman and Pedro E. Gutierrez Jr. have been elected to serve as treasurer and secretary, respectively, of the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Edelman, who had been serving as secretary, replaces Matt Hill of Amazon, who stepped down from the EMA Board due to a change in his responsibilities at Amazon.

Edelman is EVP of marketing and content strategy for Vubiquity.

Gutierrez is director of digital stores movies and TV business and category management at Microsoft.

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The other officers of EMA are chair Cameron Douglas of Fandango and vice chair Suyin Lim of PlayStation Video. Additionally, comScore’s Marty Graham and Google’s Bill Kotzman serve on the board’s executive committee.

Luncheon Fetes Fast Forward Award Honorees

FandangoNow VP of home entertainment Cameron Douglas, Redbox CEO Galen Smith, Google Play head of media and entertainment Jonathan Zepp, and the team at Apple iTunes were honored with Fast Forward Awards at a luncheon April 4 in Los Angeles at the Universal Hilton.

The awards, presented by Media Play News, recognize people, technologies, organizations, products or services that move the home entertainment industry forward.

The luncheon was produced by Media Play News and hosted by the Entertainment Merchants Association, which used the occasion to announce a new Leadership Development Foundation to foster executive talent.

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“All of today’s honorees are truly worthy of recognition for their leadership in our industry,” said EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher.

Media Play News publisher Thomas K. Arnold noted that all of the honorees are involved in the digital transactional business. Not all consumers want to get their entertainment buffet-style with the content curated for them as offered by subscription streaming services; many consumers would like to choose the content they would like to see a la carte, he said.

Warner Bros. Entertainment SVP of sales Michael Rweyemamu presented the award to Smith of Redbox, which has nearly doubled the selection of films and TV shows available on its year-old digital movie store, Redbox On Demand, and last December announced a new deal in which its app is featured on all Vizio Smartcast TV. Rweyemamu noted the irony of the occasion, considering the rocky relationship between the studio and the kiosk company several years ago when the two fought over release windows for low-priced rentals.

“Ten years ago, had you told me I’d be presenting an award to Redbox, I’d have said, ‘Hell, no!’” Rweyemamu joked.

He praised Smith for his leadership.

“Galen, you’ve been a great partner,” he said. “We started off on a rocky road like some relationships, but we’re in a really good place right now. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that you were really tenacious. You were really disciplined, really open to conversations to allow us to be where we are today.”

Smith also noted the evolution of the relationship between the two companies.

“In a similar vein, receiving an award from Warner Bros. I didn’t think was ever going to happen,” Smith said.

The company’s Redbox on Demand digital service “is a real natural evolution for our business,” Smith said.

“We’ve got 50 million customers that rent from us every year; it’s an opportunity for us to help them move to digital,” he said. “This is the last bastion of customers who haven’t moved yet. We have an opportunity to bring them over.”

He also praised the transactional model.

“We did a stint in a more of an SVOD-type business, and it didn’t really work,” he said, in reference to a failed joint venture with Verizon. “Our consumers are transactional, and so we want to do everything we can to support the business.”

In presenting the award to FandangoNow’s Douglas, industry veteran and former DreamWorks home entertainment chief Kelly Sooter praised him for his ability to anticipate trends and forge strong partnerships and lasting relationships — and for always being in touch with the consumer.

“He knows everything about … how consumers behave,” she said.

FandangoNow has been revving up its promotional muscle and is aggressively tying in digital purchases and rentals with its movie-ticket-selling sister company.

Douglas noted he got involved in the digital business at DreamWorks when he was asked to help with a startup (M-GO, which eventually was acquired by movie service Fandango and became FandangoNow).

“As we finally refined what we were doing and launched in 2013 as a transactional service, I truly felt like I was now building the future of digital home entertainment,” Douglas said.

He noted FandangoNow’s early and strong support for 4K and initiatives such as binge bundles and the “Fresh Picks” program, which curates titles deemed “Fresh” by sister service Rotten Tomatoes.

Praising Google Play’s Zepp, who was unable to attend, Paramount Pictures president of worldwide home media distribution Bob Buchi said, “He truly has the talent and the vision to market very impressively to consumers and really change the way that they behave.”

Buchi noted that Google Play, which is in its seventh year, “really put a movie store in the hand of millions of consumers with the Android mobile platform [and] really elevated and streamlined the experience of purchasing or renting a digital product, and opened up a whole new world in literally over 100 countries.”

“They continued to enhance the product day in and day out,” he said. “It’s now on every major television manufacturer and streaming sticks, so it’s really never been easier to rent or to purchase a movie.

“They’re also super champions of 4K which is great for adoption and great for all of our futures.”

Google Play Movies & TV is currently on a big 4K push, automatically upgrading customers’ past movie purchases to the new format, so they can stream them in 4K, even if the movies were originally purchased in standard or high definition.

Google Play’s Bill Kotzman accepted the award on Zepp’s behalf and read a statement from the honoree: “Transactional home entertainment is and will remain a key part of the media and entertainment business.… Google continues to invest heavily in transactional, and we’re excited to continue to grow the category in partnership with all of you.”

The EMA’s Steven Apple accepted the award for the iTunes team. Apple’s iTunes service began the year with a game-changing deal with No. 1 TV manufacturer Samsung. New Samsung SmartCast TVs will allow consumers to access their iTunes movie and TV show libraries through a new app.

Photos of the event are here.

EMA Launches Leadership Development Foundation

The Entertainment Merchants Association has formed the EMA Leadership Development Foundation to support professional training and development within the home entertainment industry, and particularly within the EMA membership.

“It’s about time that we recognize that our industry, that of the retailing and streaming of entertainment content to the consumer, is a unique industry and with jobs classifications that are unique to this industry and yet common across our member companies,”said Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the EMA, April 4 at the Fast Forward Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, produced by Media Play News and hosted by the EMA.

The EMA Leadership Development Foundation will provide opportunities for recent entrants in the home entertainment workforce to learn how the industry operates and to interact with their peers in order to advance their careers and offer professional development opportunities in the industry for women and under-represented minorities, according to the EMA.

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The activities for the EMA Leadership Development Foundation will include:

  • Presenting seminars and workshops on the business of home entertainment;
  • Hosting informal professional networking sessions for individuals who work in the home entertainment industry;
  • Managing a structured mentoring program for women and under-represented minorities in the home entertainment industry; and
  • Recognizing individuals in the home entertainment industry who have made significant contributions to the industry, their community, and/or the advancement of diversity in the industry.

 

A Leadership Development Advisory Council will advise the EMA Leadership Development Foundation on programs and strategies for leadership development, education, and recognition within the home entertainment industry. The council will consist of individuals from both within and outside the home entertainment industry who have expertise in professional development and the promotion of diverse workforces.

“The programs of the EMA Leadership Development Foundation will help employees in the home entertainment industry gain a greater understanding of the business of home entertainment, introduce them to their peers in other companies, and provide them with mentoring opportunities,” Fisher said. “This will help them become more effective employees and prepare them for career advancement in the industry.”

The EMA Leadership Development Foundation is a not-for-profit entity incorporated in the state of Delaware. The EMA Board of Directors will also act as the Board of Directors for the EMA Leadership Development Foundation. The foundation will be managed by the EMA staff.

Initial funding for the EMA Leadership Development Foundation came from the dissolution of the EMA Scholarship Foundation and the transfer of its assets to the EMA Leadership Development Foundation.

“The EMA Scholarship Foundation provided a tremendous service to our industry,” Fisher said. “Between its establishment in 1987 and 2019, it helped more than 240 students achieve higher education through scholarship grants totaling more than $1 million. But our industry has evolved over the past three decades and the resources previously dedicated to the Scholarship Foundation we believe can better serve the industry in a new way. We believe that new way, the EMA Leadership Development Foundation, will provide a great service to our industry.”

EMA Growing Membership Commitment and Expanding Into OTT, Says CEO

LAS VEGAS — The Entertainment Merchants Association hailed the growing commitment of its membership at a meeting Jan. 8 during CES.

“The engagement of our members over the past year I think is more than we’ve ever seen,” said president and CEO Mark Fisher.

“It’s been an interesting year in the industry and for our association,” he said, noting the growth of digital purchase storage locker Movies Anywhere and the expansion and churn in the OTT space (including pending streaming services from Disney and WarnerMedia).

“We initiated a focus on OTT channels” in the past year, he said, in addition to EST and disc, which “is not dead.”

He noted that the EMA had a “very successful OTT conference” at the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit in July, which had to downsize its budget.

The organization “learned how to operate a conference at lower cost,” during the July 2018 LAES.

But the EMA is focused on the entertainment delivery systems of the future. Fisher noted that, in July, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, the EMA and MovieLabs formed the Digital Supply Chain Alliance to strengthen the digital supply chain.

“That alliance have proven to show really rapid results,” he said.

Mitch Mallon, CEO of Stadium Media and chair of the digital EMA steering committee, added that EMA digital membership has grown, digital events have expanded and that the committee has created six white papers.

In the coming year, the committee “will be focusing on how OTT is starting to move out into the European marketplace,” he said, including launching a new project to list digital platforms around the world.

Steve Apple, VP, industry sales at the EMA, moderated a discussion on the OTT market.

Panelist Jason Peterson, CEO of GoDigital Media Group, noted that international markets and cultures require a different approach, including mobile, non-cash, non-banked payment opportunities.

“We’ve really focused on the Hispanic audience,” he said.

Panelist Tricia Lee, SVP, product and development, Sony New Media Solutions, noted that focusing on a rabid fan base can be key in the OTT space, referencing her work building Funimation’s service, which has “hyper-attention fans” in the anime space.

The key is authenticity, she said, adding consumers “are looking for shared experiences, and it has to be authentic.”

Services “need culturally significant content to cut through that clutter,” Peterson added.

DEG, EMA and MovieLabs Release Updated Digital Supply Chain Specs

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, the Entertainment Merchants Association and Motion Pictures Laboratories (MovieLabs), together with member studios, retailers, and service providers, have approved and released four updated supply chain specifications for digital distribution of film and TV.

The specifications were developed and reviewed jointly by the three organizations through the Digital Supply Chain Alliance announced earlier this year. The new updates are designed to expand support for international distribution to ensure all territories receive the right content and facilitate more sophisticated business engagement and improved automation among participants in the digital supply chain.

The updated documents include two comprehensive specifications developed over many years and two more targeted specifications for “core” requirements and use cases. The core specs enable content owners and distributors to start small with a simpler initial deployment, then grow the implementation as needed to meet requirements.

“The Digital Supply Chain Alliance was created to allow us as an industry to move faster and more efficiently towards standards adoption industrywide,” said John Powers, executive director, DEG, in a statement. “We are happy to demonstrate, with the release of these first specs, that this is successfully happening. This is a meaningful step in keeping up with the pace of change in digital distribution.”

“As our members continue to expand the scope and scale of their content offerings, it’s important that our specifications adapt to support them,” said Eric Hanson, VP of industry leadership, EMA, in a statement. “It’s been great having such engaged support from retailers, service providers, studios and TV networks in agreeing on technical solutions to increasingly complex use cases.”

“Working together with the DEG and EMA, we incorporated improvements into the specifications to make them complete enough and robust enough to handle a wide range of situations encountered by our members,” said Craig Seidel, MovieLabs VP of distribution technology, in a statement. “We are very pleased to make these the first specs approved through the Digital Supply Chain Alliance.”

The updates include:

• Common Metadata 2.7 — New features have been added to the Common Metadata specification, including support for franchises and brands, related works, more sophisticated TV internationalization, and technical metadata improvements (e.g., dynamic metadata and additional encoding parameters). The new spec also includes general updates such as new codec-controlled vocabularies, minor corrections and clarifications.
• Media Entertainment Core 2.8 — The Media Entertainment Core Metadata spec defines the core requirements for transferring metadata from publishers to retailers. MEC has been updated to conform to Common Metadata 2.7.
• Media Manifest 1.8 — The Media Manifest spec has also been updated to follow Common Metadata 2.7, as well as adding data to support additional workflow use cases, ability to handle cards in playable sequence, and improved support for TV that reduces the need for territory-specific experiences.
• Media Manifest Core 2.0 — Media Manifest Core 2.0 is the targeted core specification based on Media Manifest 1.8 and Common Metadata 2.7. It includes all the improvements from those specifications and adds full support for episodic content.

The latest specifications can be found on the MovieLabs website www.movielabs.com/md.

EMA Presents 2018 Digi Awards

The Entertainment Merchants Association presented the 2018 Digi Awards at the Digital Pipeline summit in Los Angeles Sept. 26.

The Content Provider Digi Award, recognizing a company supplying a movie, television program or other audio-visual work, was awarded to Sony Pictures for “always being ready to team up on pilot programs that push toward automation,” according to the EMA.

(L-R) Presenter Suyin Lim of Sony Interactive Entertainment, FandangoNow’s Cameron Douglas and the EMA’s Mark Fisher. FandangoNow won the Digi Innovation Award.

The Innovation Award, given to a company that has demonstrated noteworthy innovation through its technology or programming to enhance the consumer experience of digital entertainment, was awarded to FandangoNow for its “Binge Bundles,” an initiative that allows consumers to rent multiple movies in one package at a discounted price.

The Service and Technology Provider “Digi” Award, which goes to a company that advances the development and growth of the digital video retailing sector through outstanding products and/or services, was given to Vubiquity for being a leading provider to premium content services and technology solutions and for continuing to innovate and provide state-of-the-art products and services to transform digital video distribution, according to the EMA.

The Digital EMA Industry Leadership Award, given to a company or individual that has made a significant contribution to the industry, was awarded to Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm Entertainment, for his leadership managing the largest indie studio and aggregator in the home entertainment space, for his overall participation in industry leadership, and for his leadership in guiding discussions regarding the EMA’s focus and future. A second Digital EMA Industry Leadership Award was given to Erick Opecka, Cinedigm’s EVP of digital networks, for his leadership in broadening the EMA’s focus developing a program to support those companies offering OTT channels, and specifically for his chairmanship of the EMA’s OTT Channels council and the successful OTT Channels conference at the EMA’s LAES this past summer.

Panel: Digital Movie Sales Need Added Value, More Promotion

Digital sales are growing, but not enough to grow the overall ownership pie, and more needs to be done to boost the market, panelists noted Sept. 26 at the Digital Media Pipeline ’18 summit in Los Angeles.

(L-R): Fandango’s Chad Ludwig, Vubiquity’s Craig Heiting and Lionsgate’s Adam Frank.

“We need to do a better job of growing ownership,” said Adam Frank, SVP, worldwide digital sales and distribution, Lionsgate, during the “Issues in Digital Retailing” panel at the summit presented by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Digital sales now represent 41% of the overall sellthrough market, and at the end of 2017, it was about 31%, which is good news, he noted. Still, the overall sellthrough pie needs to expand, rather than shrink.

Adding value to the digital buy is one way to entice customers, panelists said.

“We have a value proposition problem on the EST side,” said Chad Ludwig, head of brand marketing at Fandango.

As far as bonus content, like the additional scenes during the end credits of movies, “Why not hold that back for EST only?” he suggested.

Bundling of content, such as the dynamic bundling on Walmart’s Vudu, is another potential value add, Frank said.

Bonus features should be more integrated into the movie where you can click on something and get bonus features while watching, said Craig Heiting, EVP of sales at Vubiquity.

“I think that bonus content is very good,” he said. “It’s how you find it.… You need to make it available for the digital age.”

Thomas K. Arnold

Bonus content should be “dynamically added into the feature,” Frank agreed.

More targeted marketing is another tactic that could boost digital buying.

Fandango targets buys at the most enthusiastic consumers, Ludwig said.

Timing is also important.

“Ask people after they saw the movie if they’d like to buy it,” suggested Heiting, rather than asking them to make that commitment before watching it digitally.

Frank said the industry needs to let consumers know that they are buying something they can’t get on a streaming service by telling them, “Hey, this title is not available for SVOD [subscription video-on-demand].”

He also said studios need to try to get transactional purchase offerings on non-transactional platforms, such as DirecTV Now and Sling.

“You need to fish where the fish are,” he said, mentioning the younger audience in particular is moving to digital platforms.

Some platforms do a good job at integrating transactional buys, Frank said.

“Amazon is a great example,” he said. “We’ve seen an incredible amount of transactions coming from that platform.”

Hulu would be a logical platform to integrate transactional buys, considering its studio ownership, he noted.

Digital ownership also has a name problem, panelists said. Electronic sellthrough (EST, “It sounds like you’re going to get an x-ray or something,” Heiting said.), transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) and Digital HD are among the many awkward terms that have been used to describe buying a digital copy, noted moderator Thomas K. Arnold, publisher and editorial director of Media Play News.

“Digital locker is really what it is,” Heiting said. “It’s not marketed well.”

The digital locker Movies Anywhere is a good description of digital ownership, noted panelists, but it too needs to up marketing.

Its first big mission was to “alleviate any friction” in purchasing movies and storing them in the cloud, but education is the next big mission for the service, Fandango’s Ludwig said. FandangoNow joined the retailer lineup for the service in March.

FandangoNow’s Cameron Douglas Elected EMA Chairman

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment for Fandango’s on-demand video streaming service, FandangoNow, has been elected chairman of the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Douglas replaces Jonathan Zepp, head of worldwide movies and TV partnerships for Google Play.

Other officers include vice chair Suyin Lim, senior director, global content acquisition, Sony Interactive Entertainment; secretary Michele Edelman, EVP, marketing and content strategy, Vubiquity; and treasurer Matt Hill, head of vendor management, Amazon Prime Video.

EMA past chairmen Bob Geistman, EVP, sales and marketing for Ingram Entertainment, and Marty Graham, SVP, comScore, as well as Bill Kotzman, partner product manager, TV/film, Google/YouTube, will also serve on the association’s executive committee as at-large members.

Other members of the board are Amit Balan, head of marketing, Vudu; Lori Flynn, VP, content, Redbox Automated Retail; Ryan Gorman, director, merchandise buying, video games, Target; Pedro E. Gutierrez Jr., director, digital stores movies and TV business and category management, Microsoft; Steve Harkins, VP and GM, Baker & Taylor; Bill Miller, VP and divisional merchandise manager, DVD, Blu-ray, and Games, Trans World Entertainment; Jason Peterson, CEO, ContentBridge Systems; and Mark Vrieling, CEO, ScreenPlay Entertainment.

“In the ever-changing world of home entertainment retailing, we need an organized industry association more than ever,” said Douglas in a statement. “EMA collectively advocates for anyone involved in the consumer delivery of content, promotes and encourages adoption of standards, and establishes trade- and consumer-focused best practices. I am proud to devote my time to an organization so important to our industry.”

“The companies on EMA’s Board of Directors represent the spectrum of the home entertainment industry, including video and video games, physical and digital, and sellthrough, rental, and streaming,” said Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO, in a statement. “These directors personify the diversity of products and business models in our industry and will help ensure that the industry’s trade association meets the needs of all market segments in our incredibly diverse industry.”

LAES: OTT About Change, Speakers Say

While there are many forms of over the top, or OTT, distribution, the term OTT is ultimately a “signifier for change” in the entertainment marketplace, said Erick Opeka, EVP of digital networks at Cinedigm July 17 at the OTT Channels Conference. The conference, which Opeka chaired, took place during the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Speakers on the panel, “OTT 2022: Prognosticating the Future,” discussed the varied landscape for OTT players, from paid subscription to free ad-supported distribution, and the dominance of goliaths such as Netflix.

Panelists speculated about where Netflix would be in the next five years.

“They will look much bigger,” said Pluto TV’s Jeff Shultz. “It will be much harder for anyone to catch them given the lead they have created.”

Neil Davis of Ucast TV speculated that Netflix would be acquired by Apple, and Roku’s Randy Ahn quipped that it would be owned by Roku.

Meanwhile, National Research Group’s Jeff Hall said it would be continuing to expand internationally.

Many panelists noted the many opportunities for international growth of OTT.

Content on Indian knitting patterns can find an audience in India, Hall noted.

“Listen to the consumer,” he said.

Panelists also discussed ways to compete in a market dominated by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and other giants.

“It’s really challenging for an independent to find a place,” Davis said.

Content discovery is key, noted Ahn.

“We make it easy for publishers to build channels,” he said, noting that the Roku Channel is “essentially like a supermarket endcap” for OTT distribution, making it easier for consumers to use and discover OTT content.

Having a strong brand can also be a help “if the brand is important enough,” Shultz said.

HBO’s online service “has a chance to be a Netflix-like brand,” Hall said.

Panelists also addressed the impending Walt Disney Co. streaming service.

“I think they are going to have a harder time than I would like them to have,” Hall said, noting the service would have to expand beyond family programming.

Meanwhile, Ahn said Disney could “potentially redefine entertainment,” and Shultz, noting Disney’s valuable IP, wondered “at what expense it will come to Netflix.”

In another presentation, Tubi’s Adam Lewinson called his AVOD service “free Netflix” and noted it had accumulated 8,000 movies and series, using machine learning to help each piece of content find its audience.

Targeting a niche is also a way to find an OTT audience, noted Here Media’s Paul Colichman on another panel.

“Anyone who’s trying to compete with Netflix [with its wide appeal] should go home now,” he said.

Speakers agreed that OTT has put traditional TV on a path of decline.

IHS Markit research analyst Dan Cryan told the audience that 2016 was the peak of traditional TV.

“In five years, we won’t be talking over the top because it will all be over the top,” said Pluto TV’s Shultz.

DEG, EMA and MovieLabs Form Digital Supply Chain Alliance

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, the Entertainment Merchants Association and MovieLabs have formed the Digital Supply Chain Alliance to strengthen the digital supply chain.

The Alliance is designed to improve cooperation among DEG, EMA and MovieLabs members “in service of improved efficiency, standards adoption and the sharing of best practices,” they stated in a press release.

A new Digital Supply Chain Steering Committee has been established and will work under the stewardship of DEG executive director John Powers, EMA VP of industry leadership Eric Hanson and MovieLabs VP of distribution technology Craig Seidel to provide oversight, guidance and direction for the groups’ combined efforts.

The new Alliance will enable the three organizations to set common goals and timelines for adoption of supply chain specifications and best practices, according to the joint release, which stated that “a shared adoption plan and roadmap will help member companies drive automation faster and more efficiently keep up with the pace of change in digital distribution.”

“I’m really excited about streamlining how ecosystem participants collaborate on improving the digital supply chain,” said steering committee member Bill Kotzman, partner product manager at YouTube/Google, in a statement. “The formation of the Digital Supply Chain Alliance is a very positive step towards increased organizational efficiency that will enable us to spend less time on deciding which problems to solve and more time on actually solving problems.”

“This new framework for collaboration will bolster the sharing of best practices and allow us to move faster towards standards adoption industrywide,” said steering committee member Mark Sgriccia, VP of content operations and strategy at Lionsgate, in a statement.

The Alliance will hold monthly working group, quarterly and biannual meetings, according to Hanson.