Entertainment topper examines UltaViolet, theatrical 'dead period' at media confab

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton sees some weak links in the movie-distribution chain that need fixing: audience tracking, UltraViolet and the “dead period” after the theatrical window.

Exec offered his candid assessments Tuesday at the D: Dive Into Media conference in Dana Point, Calif.

Lynton said the movie studios aren’t getting an accurate read on how the marketplace will respond to their releases in the weeks leading up to theatrical bows. More accurate measurements would help guide how to adjust marketing spend on different demographics.

“The studios’ tracking system doesn’t work very well at the moment,” he said. “The next big step is working with research companies to get that tracking mechanism to work better.”

Lynton also addressed premium VOD, the post-theatrical window with which the studios experimented back in 2011 only to abort those efforts after backlash from exhibitors. “It was mishandled in my opinion,” he said.

That “dead period,” as he put it, leaves the industry vulnerable to piracy, squanders a revenue opportunity and makes marketing more difficult. But he said the studios could try again to find a new window for films in U.S. homes. “Next time around I hope we do it more coordinated, with a real marketing message to the consumer,” he said.

As for UltraViolet, the new digital format that allows users to purchase films that can be stored in the cloud and accessed across many devices, he acknowledged a substandard user experience is holding back adoption.

“The interface is not as good as it could be,” he said of UltraViolet, which he praised for having racked up 10 million accounts, but he added: “They’re not using it enough. Part of the reason for that is that it’s not easy to use.”

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