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DVD On Demand Meets Amazon.com (6/2006)
by Douglas Dixon
With all the hype about electronic distribution of media, and dire predictions for physical goods, it's instructive to look at one of the standout "new economy" Web companies -- Amazon.com. This is a US $14 billion dollar company that just reported a $2.28 billion first quarter for net sales, a 20 percent increase. Not bad for a company that basically takes orders to ship physical products.
Interestingly, Amazon sees a strong future in our world of entertainment media, as demonstrated by its July 2005 acquisition of CustomFlix Labs (www.customflix.com). Founded in February 2002, CustomFlix provides inventory-free physical media distribution through burn-on-demand DVD publishing services for independent filmmakers and content owners -- allowing anyone with niche content to make it available as a real product. CustomFlix handles the entire supply chain, from ordering and customer service to manufacturing and delivery.
The idea is to open the door for a broad range of new content that was just too difficult and too expensive to otherwise bring to market. Independent videographers no longer risk the significant up-front investment for a large replication run, and then face spending their time packaging orders on the kitchen table. For a set-up free of $49.95 per title (and a per title revenue share), CustomFlix will stock the title in its DVD On Demand service, and now also make it available through Amazon retail sales.
CustomFlix even can simplify the process further by offering DVD authoring services starting at $99, so you only need to provide the video tape. They also can create custom menus and artwork and create e-store trailers.
And DVD on demand is not just for small independents -- it's also for large content owners with large catalogs of interesting, but not mass-market, material. Again, the cost of authoring and replicating hundreds of old shows or sports events would be prohibitive, but the CustomFlix model allows these libraries to be offered for sale, and then manufactured as needed to fit the resulting demand.
For example, CustomFlix has announced new agreements with major television and cable networks to distribute popular broadcast content. These include NBC Universal (Where in the World is Matt Lauer? segments from the Today show), A&E Home Video (Modern Marvels, Investigative Reports, and Biography), and PBS (American Experience, Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, and Nova).
In April 2006, CustomFlix announced the next phase of its service: on-demand support for high definition formats: blue-laser HD-DVD and Blu-ray, plus Windows Media Video High Definition DVD (WMV-HD DVD, www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/musicandvideo/hdvideo/HDVideo.aspx).
This multi-format support is enabled by CustomFlix's Future-Proof Archive service, a storage and repurposing platform intended to also accommodate other possible future formats (physical and electronic).
Mark Cuban's HDNet is working with CustomFlix to digitize hundreds of HD titles.
The first HDNet WMV-HD DVD and HD DVD titles are available now, with Blu-ray coming in the near future (hdnet-store.stores.yahoo.net).
Darren Giles, Chief Technologist at CustomFlix sees all this as good news for the DVD duplication and replication business, lowering the barriers for new content and new formats. The on demand approach allows new content to come to market as a "real" product, complete with order fulfillment, shrink-wrap packaging, and availability on Amazon.com. And when some of this "long tail" material becomes a hit, it will be shifted to replicators for manufacturing in larger quantities.
The CustomFlix service enables new content to come to market, for independents, large catalogs, ... and now the new high-def formats. No more licking stamps at the kitchen table.
HDNet - HD Titles
Windows Media Video High Definition DVD (WMV-HD DVD)