Video Hub Seeks to Unify Streams

Launching in 2017, trade group’s online service will put all digital content in a single, standardized location

By this time next year, every digital retailer—from Netflix to Vudu to niche players in between—will be accessing studio content from the same online repository, using the same standards for every video.

That’s the plan, anyway, of the Los Angeles nonprofit trade group known as the Entertainment Merchants Association, which represents entertainment retailers, distributors and suppliers.

Beginning in early 2017, the group will debut the EMA Online Video Repository, which will include all the video, audio, metadata, text, artwork and delivery packages for both movies and TV shows, in all available languages. The unified setup will give both domestic and international retailers the ability to access the same standardized content.

The key word, says EMA president Mark Fisher, is standards. Speaking at the recent Digital Media Pipeline event in Los Angeles, Fisher said that the way things are done now, media files for online video titles are processed several times by several post houses for each retailer, creating unneeded—and costly—redundancy. The repository would mean files for each title are prepared once, all standardized with current industry specifications.

“We have gotten preliminary commitments from several major online video retailers to participate in the repository,” Fisher said. “We’re targeting a phased rollout of the repository to begin in the first half of next year and plan to offer content from all the major content providers within a year of launch.”

EMA plans to charge a fee that is less than half what current post houses charge for access to videos in the repository, while billing extra for each additional language the videos are available in. Fisher added that EMA will perform quality control on every video and will make sure each title conforms to current closed captioning and subtitles standards established by retailers.

“Online video needs a cost-effective and scalable distribution servicing solution built around common specifications,” Fisher added. “If the file for each title were prepared just once and all retailers were able to retrieve those files from a common repository, retailers, content providers and the industry as a whole would see tremendous benefits.”

The EMA estimates that retailers today spend more than $750 million a year to acquire unique versions of the mezzanine files attached just to feature films. The group projects that its solution can cut that cost down to less than $270 million a year.