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World of information

Confab tackles tech challenges that cut across all the major studios

G etting studio execs from rival congloms in the same room to discuss the details of their business is an unthinkable concept — unless it’s a confab of the Hollywood IT Society (HITS).

The industry’s information technology pros will gather today at just such an event: the first Hollywood IT Summit. They’ll address ways to collaborate on solutions to the common challenges they all face and learn about such cutting-edge topics as managing information on social networking platforms.

Since many emerging IT challenges involve tackling systemic problems, it’s possible for studio technologists to share solutions without revealing the kind of information that would be considered intellectual property.

“We want to bring people in IT across studios together to share best practices and systems,” says Jeff Mirich, conference co-chair and senior VP, chief information officer for Walt Disney Studios. “In the past we’ve each developed almost identical systems on our own so coming together to collaborate on systems in the future will increase our efficiency, eliminate duplicative efforts, and increase the level of standardization necessary for additional supply-chain automation.”

One major cross-studio tool that’s been developed is the Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR), a comprehensive universal identification system to ID and manage information about all kinds of movie and television assets. It was created by Movie Labs, Cablelabs, Comcast and Rovi.

“At the summit, HITS will discuss how to deploy the EIDR across our business systems to help us automate our content management and supply-chain processes,” Mirich says.

Assigning an identifier to a movie makes it possible to retrieve several kinds of information, ranging from rights issues to royalty payment responsibilities. It’s another area where using an across-the-board solution rather than duplicative technology can benefit everyone.

IT professionals are also focusing on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites since they offer a tremendous amount of key information about consumers of entertainment products but also place great demands on IT.

“Social networking technologies present many challenging opportunities for IT, including finding a way to gather the overwhelming amount of information available from clicks of the mouse to blogs and POS data, extracting the intelligence from that information, and deploying that intelligence for virtual real-time decision-making from a film’s release in theatres to DVD and digital delivery,” says Devendra Mishra, chief strategist for MESA and conference co-chair.

Looking to the future, leaders at the conference want to clear paths for students to enter careers in IT.

“We have a lot of students who are interested in working in IT and working with the studios,” says Linda Livingstone, dean and professor of management, Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine U. “This summit can give us a better sense of what our students need to know to move forward in their careers.”

Mirich says there will be no shortage of topics. He notes that IT must contend with issues as diverse as collecting revenue across different platforms and ensuring that encryption keys work so digital copies of movies can be played in theaters.

“There’s a lot going on in the studio IT groups right now,” says Mirich. “We’re aligning our business systems to support the new content distribution platforms and generating new tools to support production, operations and marketing decisions. There’s also a lot of work going on in the systems that manage content rights and payment processing activities as new distribution platforms have increased the velocity and quantity of transactions.”

TIP SHEET

Organized by the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), the Hollywood IT Summit (also called HITS) focuses on IT solutions for the business of entertainment. Targeting execs in finance, operations, sales, marketing and other strategic areas, the event is produced by the Hollywood IT Society, Media and Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) and Variety — in collaboration with Pepperdine University.

Topics include:
• Transformation of businesses via IT resources
• Leveraging shared solutions developed by studios
• Growth and profitability in the entertainment biz
• Universal media ID
• Outsourcing IT functions
• Integrated supply chains
• Web 2.0 digital marketing
• SOA applications
• Getting social with media
• Media value chain integration
• Leveraging social media and analytics
• Why CIOs are last among equals

Conference chairs:
Jeff Mirich, Walt Disney Studios
Devendra Mishra, MESA

Speakers:
Steve Andujar, Sony Pictures Ent.
Richard Atkinson, Anti-Piracy Worldwide
Michael Bacharach, 20th Century Fox
Marcela Bailey, Sony Pictures Home Ent.
David Bishop, Sony Pictures Home Ent.
Mark Chun, Pepperdine U
David Cohen, Variety
Leo Collins, Lionsgate
David Cortese, Rentrak
Peter DeLisi, Santa Clara U
Paul Frangoulis, Teradata
Erin Griffin, SAG
Glenn Grube, ModusLink
Eric Hanson, Microsoft
John Herbert, 20th Century Fox
Eric Iverson, Sony Pictures Ent.
Josh Kline, Deluxe Digital Distribution
John Konczal, Sterling Commerce (IBM)
Steve Lapinski, NBC Universal
Linda Livingstone, Pepperdine U
Richard Maraschi, IBM Global Business Services
Bennett McClellan, NBM Research
Jerry McGlynn, Walt Disney Studios
Tom Moran, Savvis
K. Wayne Peacock, Teradata
Raoul Schuhmacher, Electronic Arts
Steve Weinstein, MovieLabs
Kip Welch, MovieLabs/EIDR
Abe Wong, Paramount

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