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Focus of trade org: Vision beyond DVD

DEG prexy wants to provide forum for tech advocates

The DVD format is only 6 years old and has been driving record revenue each year. But trade org DVD Entertainment Group is already looking to the next platforms for the delivery of movies to the home.

With DVD players in close to 50% of U.S. homes, the org formed to promote the format is changing its charter to focus on emerging digital technologies such as high-definition DVD and electronic delivery. Reflecting that reorientation, DEG president Robert Chapek will announce this morning at the annual Video Software Dealers Assn. convention in Las Vegas that DEG is changing its name to the Digital Entertainment Group.

The goal is to provide neutral ground for hardware makers and studios to discuss common goals in introducing new movie formats.

“DEG is really the only place where hardware and software people regularly sit down together,” said Chapek, who is also prexy of Disney’s Buena Vista Home Entertainment. “We want to provide a forum where advocates of different technologies can talk about what really matters, which is the consumer.” Combines studios, hardware makers

DEG includes the seven major studios, plus Artisan, DreamWorks and New Line, along with hardware makers Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Philips, Thomson and Toshiba. Until now, it has focused on collecting industry statistics on DVD shipments and coordinating promotional efforts.

Currently, at least five different — and incompatible — HD-DVD formats are under development, each backed by different groups of hardware makers and technology companies.

The DVD Forum, the format’s official standards-setting body, has been split over the issue, as the hardware companies that dominate the group bring their own agendas to the table.

The studios established their own group, called the Hollywood Advisory Committee, to make their voices heard on the development of an HD-DVD format, but the committee lacks hardware input.

Won’t set standards

Unlike the DVD Forum, however, DEG will not try to set standards for the new format.

“This group is not a technology group,” said Emil Petrone, DEG chairman and exec VP of Philips corporate alliance group. “We have more of a marketing and business approach to the format, rather than dealing with the engineering issues.”

Group will also change the structure of its board to reflect greater balance between hardware and software interests. “We’re going to look at rotating the president and chairman positions between hardware and software people,” Petrone said. “That will give everybody a better feel of having a say over how the group is progressing.”

Attendance at the VSDA convention is expected to at least equal last year’s turnout of about 4,000.

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