Last month, three companies, MetaMedia Entertainment, Velocity Managed Services and Burbank post facility Pixelogic Media, formed a partnership to improve how digital cinema packages, key delivery messages and cinema advertising are produced and distributed over managed internet connections directly to exhibitors’ screens and dynamic digital lobby displays. By lowering costs and increasing the efficiency and speed of content delivery for the entertainment industry, the MVP partners believe they will provide content creators and distributors with a longer window to finalize their movies and marketing materials. They also believe they can make the process more environmentally friendly. I recently spoke with several MVP executives about their plans to reshape the cinema pipeline from production to exhibition.
Digital Cinema Report: You launched MetaMedia in March. Prior to that you were president of IMAX, a top executive at Walt Disney Studios and chairman of the Digital Cinema Initiatives. How did those experiences factor into your decision to start the MetaMedia?
Jason Brenek, CEO, MetaMedia: Having worked for many years in theatrical distribution, both on the studio side as well as a service provider, I am very aware of the challenges of delivering content to theatres in a timely, reliable and cost-effective way. In this age of digital cinema, it was hard to believe that a majority of films are delivered to cinemas around the world on hard drives or aging satellite technology. I also believed that a platform for delivering content to theaters over the internet could create a multitude of new programming opportunities for theaters. That’s why we launched MetaMedia.
DCR: You launched MVP in June with company partners Velocity and Pixelogic. Was that always the plan or did something specific take place to indicate that the partnership was needed?
Frank Bryant, chief commercial officer and head of international, MetaMedia: That was always the plan. From the earliest days of MetaMedia we sought out partnerships with Pixelogic and Velocity to provide next-generation solutions for our studio and exhibitor customers. Pixelogic is recognized as providing world-class services in mastering and localization services. At the same time, Velocity is a critical partner that provides secure last-mile connections to cinemas along with more than 5,000 highly trained field technicians. As we partnered with them individually, we realized that joining together to form our MVP partnership made even more sense and provided more value to both studios and exhibitors.
DCR: What role does each of the companies play in the partnership?
FB: Pixelogic is the entry point for our studio partners with their creative, post-production, and digital cinema mastering capabilities. Their proprietary workflow tools can reduce the time necessary for finishing any piece of content. MetaMedia is the content programming and delivery service built on Microsoft Azure for getting content securely and efficiently into cinemas. Meanwhile, Velocity is the backbone of our network. Their team, which currently manages and supplies internet connections to approximately 1,000 cinemas and 40,000 retail locations across the country, helps with circuit delivery, provisioning, support and installation as well as in-lobby digital signage solutions for exhibitors.
DCR: Pixelogic has a strategic partnership with the Whip Media Group to take advantage of its cloud-based content value management platform. Are you still partners with Whip Media and, if so, how does that fit into the your plans with MVP?
Pixelogic co-president, John Suh: Pixelogic and Whip Media are still partners. The partnership with Whip Media focuses on a different end market, which is primarily enabling localized content for digital distribution to consumers at home. Whereas the partnership with MVP is focused on enabling content creation and distribution to the theatrical exhibition market. The common denominator in both partnerships, is that Pixelogic is always looking to collaborate with innovative companies that are moving the market forward by leveraging technology and building on strong operational capabilities.
DCR: Velocity has worked with customers as diverse as Hilton and Walgreens. But, according to your website, other than MetaMedia your only cinema-related customer is Screenvision. What lessons have you learned working with Screenvision that will have the greatest impact for MVP?
Joe T. Ross, Velocity executive vice president sales and marketing: Velocity has managed and supplied the internet connections to approximately 1000 cinemas across the country, within the Screenvision network of cinemas, to deliver content for the last eight-plus years. Velocity has learned and mastered the ins and outs of circuit delivery, provisioning, support and installation into theatres, as well as services to approximately 40,000 retail and hospitality locations across the country.
Additionally, we have a group of individuals on the Velocity Cinema Solutions team that have over 150 years of cumulative in-cinema marketing, advertising and content management experience. This experience includes years of work with the Screenvision team. That experience has helped us understand their needs from a connectivity and media perspective. MVP can deliver value to Screenvision with shorter content delivery windows, which can lead to more ad sales, too.
DCR: One of your stated goals with MVP is to create a distribution option that both saves time and at the same time is environmentally responsible. Please elaborate on those two goals.
Chuck Goldwater, President, North America, MetaMedia: Because our delivery network is cloud-based with Microsoft Azure technology, we do not need to create an extensive network of server storage farms or place satellite dishes on theatre roofs. Our technology will deliver content directly to cinemas during off-hours and this content will be pulled electronically into the theatre's library management server and programmed into individual auditoriums. There will be no physical media that has to be handled by shipping and logistics agents or by theatre personnel. Ultimately, fewer machines, less hardware and fewer trucks delivering hard drives or satellite equipment, means lower energy consumption and a reduced carbon footprint.”