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Fox, Samsung Look to ‘Liberate’ Movies on Digital Devices

When Twentieth Century Fox announced plans to back a technology that enables digital entertainment to easily move from one device to another, there was one thing missing: major support from a hardware manufacturer.

Samsung Electronics has now stepped up to work with Fox’s Innovation Lab and integrate Secure Content Storage Association technology into its smart TVs and tablets, not smartphones just yet.

The company is the lab’s first partner since it was founded last October, and will work with the studio to develop technologies that are five to ten years out, according to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment president Mike Dunn.

“We’ve been in the movie business for nearly 100 years, and know how to delight audiences around the world, so it’s great to work with Samsung on new ways to define the home entertainment experience,” Dunn said from the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin this week.

SEE ALSO: Future of Home Entertainment: Why Hollywood Needs a ‘Digital Bridge’ to Work with Electronics Biz

Samsung’s support will especially be important as studios start releasing more movies on the higher-resolution 4K Ultra HD format on home entertainment platforms. Netflix already streams 4K content, and Samsung announced content deals for 4K programming with Amazon, Comcast and M-Go at CES in January.

Since UHD movies are large files, SCSA will serve as the technology “that will liberate content for consumers, allowing them to move it easily from device to device,” Dunn said. “Consumer electronics, Hollywood studios and, most importantly, consumers will benefit when we deliver an entertainment experience that’s fit for today’s digital lifestyle.”

SCSA was first introduced in 2012 by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, SanDisk Corp, CRI and Western Digital. No other studios have yet to sign on to back the technology.

That could change now that SCSA has a major consumer electronics manufacturer on its side.

While Samsung joined the group in December, it is now ready to start integrating SCSA’s technology into its new consumer electronics products, like the world’s largest curved television at 105 inches (that costs around $260,000; an 85-inch version goes for $120,000), and a 105-inch bendable television that it introduced at the IFA show. Smaller versions were shown at CES.

Samsung already makes 4K versions of Fox’s films available through the company’s UHD Video Pack, a $400 4K Ultra HD media player sold with the company’s TVs. Fox and Samsung started collaborating on a secure way to deliver Ultra HD movies and TV shows through smart TVs in March.

SEE ALSO: Fox, Samsung to Develop System to Deliver Ultra HD Content Through Smart TVs

Studios are eager to make buying digital versions of films and TV shows easier for consumers, especially as more entertainment is viewed on mobile devices.

Digital movie purchases surged 47% last year to $1.19 billion, according to the Digital Entertainment Group

Consumers, however, have been frustrated with copyright limitations preventing the purchase of a film, for example, from being accessible on other devices they own.

That’s caused many to simply switch over to streaming services like Netflix, despite Hollywood rallying around products like UltraViolet, which was designed to encourage digital sales by storing films in a locker. The lack of support by Apple and some technical complications have turned off some consumers to that service, however.

SEE ALSO: Is UltraViolet Finally Catching On with Consumers?

Samsung also will benefit from pairing up with SCSA, especially as the company looks to make its smart devices more attractive by offering more entertainment on their screens and turning them into a distribution platform for content owners.

Samsung has been the world’s largest TV manufacturer since 2006, and the largest maker of smartphones since 2011.

Yet in order to protect their content, studios are asking hardware makers to commit to technology developed by organizations like the SCSA, not only because of copyright concerns, but as a way to make sure consumers are using a system they feel won’t frustrate people who may want to buy more movies in the future.

In short, entertainment platforms may be forced to commit to SCSA’s technology or be left without access to Ultra HD content from studios in the future should more sign up.

So far Fox is the only studio that’s drawn a hard line in the sand, saying it only will make 4K versions of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “The Fault in Our Stars” available to device makers that support SCSA.

“Our high quality content will only be available in UHD on devices from companies like Samsung, that commit to SCSA technology,” Dunn said in announcing the expanded Samsung relationship.

Delivering 4K films as digital files comes as the Blu-Ray Disc Assn is readying to roll out the first 4K Blu-ray discs by Christmas 2015.

The discs are seen as a way to work around the potential issue of overloading streaming services with high demands for bandwidth to distribute large files, and keep the packaged goods business humming along for studios and retailers.

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