Fascinating story in the Wall Street Journal this morning about a new digital delivery system for movies being pushed by Disney. Fascinating not just for the ostensible news it contained — Disney hopes to replace lost DVD revenue with a new system for letting consumers access movies across multiple digital platforms called Keychest –as for the timing of its appearance and its sourcing. Clearly, this was a torpedo sent by Apple and aimed squarely at Sony.
The backstory: Sony is the driving force behind the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a consortium comprised of five major studios and several technology company, and chaired by Sony Pictures exec, Mitch Singer. DECE’s goal is to create a system to, well, let consumer access movies across multiple digital platforms. Though progress has been slow, work has continued. In fact, DECE principals are scheduled to meet Thursday in Seoul, Korea, for the next round of talks. When the WSJ story appeared here on Wednesday, of course, it was already Thursday in Seoul.
Among the companies conspicuously missing from the DECE consortium are Apple and Disney. Apple, in particular, has shown no interest in cooperating with an industry-wide standard, perferring to go it alone when it comes to digital delivery. And Steve Jobs, of course, is Disney’s largest individual shareholder.
It’s pretty obvious that the story in the Journal was planted by Apple and Disney and intended to blow up any progress DECE was thinking of making over in Seoul this week. How do we know Apple was involved? Because Apple went out of its way to make sure people knew where the story was coming from.
According to the story, “people in the entertainment industry say it would be reasonable to infer that Apple would cooperate with” Disney’s initiative. By “people in the entertainment industry” it would be reasonable to infer the reporter means “people at Disney” and possibly even people at Apple. As a reporter who has covered the entertainment and technology industries for many years, I can assure you that Apple almost never, ever cooperates on stories like this, even on background. For that sentence to be in there, someone at Apple had to either provide it directly or give the green light to someone at Disney to pass it on to the Journal.
Oddly, Disney Home Entertainment chief Bob Chapek more or less gives the game away by admitting the studio doesn’t expect Keychest, “to deliver tangible financial results for five years.” Apart from being a stupid thing to say in the Wall Street Journal, it also telegraphs the strong likelihood that Keychest isn’t quite as ready for primetime as the planted story tries to make it appear.
Nope, this was a hand grenade, rolled into the meeting room in Seoul, to inflict maximum damage.