Free online TV a threat to industry

Screen Digest unveils report at media confab

MADRID — More and more viewers will be lured away from broadcast and cable TV to ad-funded online entertainment, available to viewers for free. But online piracy — another form of free-to-view digital entertainment — is the industry’s biggest threat.

That was the opinion of industryites at London-based media research company Screen Digest’s annual Peve Digital Entertainment Conference, according to a confab report released Tuesday.

By 2011, ad-supported, online TV shows will account for 10 times more U.S. consumption than paid for online content, according to Screen Digest’s broadband media senior analyst Dan Cryan,

He warned that the challenge for digital rights holders was persuading consumers to pay for content available now for free.

Michael Comish, CEO of BlinkBox Entertainment, went as  far as to call piracy “a new channel … larger and more powerful than FNAC, supermarket chain Tesco, Blockbuster and Wal-Mart combined.”

But the confab, piracy and economic downturn notwithstanding, delivered a largely bullish take on the state of home entertainment industry, the report said.

Most speakers suggested the adoption of the Blu-ray disc format was in line with expectations.

According to Robert Salter, category director-entertainment for Tesco, the supermarket chain is now dedicating up to 20% of shelf space in some stores to BD.

In his keynote, David Bishop, prexy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, insisted that home entertainment is still a $50 billion-a-year biz. Blu-ray sales are being driven by consumers’ upgrade to HD TVs, he added.

Around half of U.S. homes now have HD TVs and 78.6 million households in Europe will have them by the end of the year, according to Screen Digest. The Peve Digital Conference ran March 12-13 in Paris.

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