With a relative dearth of movies and TV shows available from major studios in glimmering Ultra HD, distributors are looking high, low and everywhere in between to stock up on quality content for the small-butgrowing set of videophiles drifting toward the emerging eye-popping format.
M-GO, the Technicolor/Dreamworks Animation over-the-top video venture that started streaming in 4K late last year, has been filling the content gap by working closely with independent studios that are jumping at the chance to show their wares in the glossiest format available.
M-GO’s 4K library — about 110 streaming titles and another 15 films offered via a recently introduced download option — gets the bulk of its content from such indie studios as Mance Media, Indie Rights Inc., Phase 4 Films, Anderson Digital and Well GO USA Entertainment.
‘MINI-MAJORS’ KEEPING TABS
“We’re working with everybody, but the lion’s share of the content that’s up there is from independent studios,” Cameron Douglas, M-GO’s senior vice president of content distribution, said, noting that “mini-majors” such as Starz Digital Media and Relativity Media have also been supportive.
He estimated that 70% to 80% of M-GO’s 4K content comes from indies.
M-GO set up a 4K demonstration room in Culver City, Calif., so major studios could take a gander at the technology. Officials came away “pretty darn impressed,” Douglas said. “But they’re all trying to figure out their own 4K strategies.”
It’s a nascent business, so some studios are being careful not to overcommit until it’s determined how 4K factors into the complete distribution pipeline, including theatrical windows, electronic sell-through, DVD/ Blu-ray Disc, video-on-demand and digital, all the way through the broadcast window.
Mance Media, a global film and TV distribution company in Hollywood, is a big believer in UHD. It began to acquire 4K content last January, and now has about 15 titles (out of about 100) available in native 4K. About half of its movie releases for 2015 are in that format, according to Matthew Mancinelli, Mance Media’s CEO.
Mance Media currently offers eight 4K titles with M-GO, and despite the small size of the addressable market, the uptake seen since last November has been significant enough to convince the company to pour more resources into the new format and expand its 4K catalog.
Recent 4K releases from the studio include Scarlet’s Witch, a drama/fantasy/mystery that M-GO made available the same day it hit theaters last Christmas.
The Young Kieslowski, a coming-of-age comedy/drama starring Ryan Malgarini, Haley Lu Richardson and Joshua Malina that was picked up by the Los Angeles Film Festival, will bow later this year.
Mance Media also distributes 4K content with Amazon and Sony (via its 4K media player), and will offer it through Dish Network, when the service provider launches its 4K-capable Joey box later this year. Mancinelli said he’s also in talks with Comcast and DirecTV, which launched limited 4K services late last year.
Looking ahead, Mance Media and other studios are also preparing for a new form of 4K physical media that doesn’t involve streaming, but will use compression that can squeeze the content down enough to fit on thumb drives and other devices that can plug into 4KTVs via a High-Definition Multimedia Interface cable.
Some of that potential is already apparent in M-GO’s new-but-limited download capabilities, based on the specs of the Secure Content Storage Association. The SCSA, a group founded in 2012, counts Comcast, Samsung Electronics, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and LG Electronics among its backers.
‘STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE’
SCSA content is delivered to devices such as the Samsung UHD Video Pack, which looks like a small hard drive and comes pre-loaded with movies. Content bought and stored to it is available in multiple formats, though, including standard-definition, highdefinition and 4K.
M-GO’s current crop of downloadable SCSA-based 4K content is available for sale only.
M-GO, an early adopter of 4K, said the addressable market for that content is still small. The company’s 4K streaming library is currently offered only on 4KTVs from Samsung, which led the market with 36% of 4K TV-shipment revenue in the third quarter of 2014, according to DisplaySearch.
“Staying ahead of the curve is important to us … Before we launched, not a day went by when we didn’t get a call to customer care, an email or a request asking us when we’d be launching a 4K service,” Douglas said, adding that M-GO is looking to offer 4K on more platforms.
M-GO’s other smart TV partners include LG and Vizio.
“We’re ultimately device-agnostic,” he said.