Daddy of DVD looks to future

Lieberfarb discusses home vid, tech advances

Warren Lieberfarb, former prexy of Warner Home Video, provided a glimpse of what the movie business may look like in 10 years during the first Berlinale Keynotes, a new format that will tackle issues relating to technological and financial changes in the industry.

“If you’re not going to give the consumer what he wants at a fair value, he’s going to find it elsewhere,” Lieberfarb told a packed crowd at the Ritz Carlton.

“The democratization of media has been extraordinary — you see it in blogging, video and music. As distribution moves toward virtual means, those entities that control the gates will see their roles diminish,” Lieberfarb, who is often credited as “the father of the DVD,” added.

Speaking for a half hour to a crowd of mostly business, media and government officials rather than Berlinale festgoers, Lieberfarb predicted a future in which consumers would have a greater say in the selection and manner of purchasing of movies and TV shows.

He did point out that the Internet is still not yet ready to distribute motion pictures. Due to the massive number of bytes needed to transfer and view DVD-quality films, it would be “years” before the Internet expands enough to carry the huge amount of data required to duplicate the physical worldwide distribution of DVDs.

The popularity of online video distribution — YouTube and MySpace, among others — is putting huge strain on the Internet, Lieberfarb added, and increase in demand will spur the Internet’s necessary expansion.

“In 10 years, we won”t be speaking so much about the Internet as about a broad digital network that will include computer, TV and telephony, and it will likely be a mobile network.”

Lieberfarb also said the simultaneous release of films in theaters, on DVD, pay-per-view and VOD — a controversial subject both in the States and increasingly in Europe — would be reality within a decade.

“DVD sales represent more revenue for the majors than any other source,” he said, adding that DVD releases remain a prime determinate of profitability for studios.

Yet the executive sought to allay the fears of increasingly irate exhibitors, who, especially in Europe, have complained loudly about the ever-shrinking DVD release window.

“I think they’ll find that the various markets do not overlay so much,” Lieberfarb reassured the attendees.

Event organizers assembled an impressive list of speakers — including, other than Lieberfarb, Myspace.com senior VP Jamie Kantrowitz, Google manager Stefan Lechere, MSN Europe general manager Geoff Sutton and CEO of U.K.-based Artists Without a Label Denzyl Feigelson.

In their keynotes, they too offered their views on the digital revolution and the fundamental changes taking place in production, distribution, usage and financing of audiovisual goods and services.

Later in the afternoon a panel consisting of some of these execs discussed the topic: How Technology Is Changing the Film Business.

The half-day session was kicked off by Berlinale topper Dieter Kosslick, who quipped: “As an old 1968 intellectual, I’m glad we’re talking about movies rather than just watching them.”

Petra Mueller, the managing director of the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg (which sponsored the conference) and Bernd Neumann, German commissioner for culture and media affairs, also made opening remarks.

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