Disney unlocks a new form of digital distribution with its “Keychest” technology

Posted on by Mark

Allowing you to buy the rights to a movie and watch it on any rights-controlled device (computer, VoD, cellphone), this upcoming piece of technology opens new doors to Digital Indie Distribution.  Keep a step ahead!

From YahooTech:

Disney’s “Keychest”: Your DVD library in the cloud?
Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:06AM EDT
Cloud computing may have gotten a bad rap in recent weeks thanks to the recent Sidekick fiasco, but Disney’s reportedly forging ahead with its plans for “Keychest,” a digital video locker in the sky that would let you watch your purchased movies and TV shows from your PC, mobile phone, or via on-demand cable.
The Wall Street Journal (registration required) has all the details, but here’s the gist: As its name implies, Disney’s “Keychest” service would let you buy a “key” to a piece of digital video content—say, a movie, or a TV episode. You’d then be able to log into your Keychest account on “participating” devices and services (such as an iPhone, PC, or cable provider) and your videos would be waiting for you.

We’re not just talking online video, either; according to the Journal, purchased DVDs and Blu-rays in the “Keychest” system would include keys that would unlock your content for Web, phone and on-demand cable viewing, as well.

Well, that sounds great—in theory, anyway—and certain companies, like Amazon with its Video on Demand “digital locker” and Kindle services, are already moving in this direction.

But as usual, the devil’s in the details. The Journal article makes the crucial point that Disney’s Keychest scheme would make video content available for viewing on “participating” services and devices … so, unless you’ve got the right phone or cable provider, you might be out of luck.

Disney might also have a tough time getting its competitors (such as Paramount, Warner Brothers, Sony, etc.) to sign on with Keychest—especially, as the Journal points out, given that there’s already another Hollywood consortium, the DECE (or Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, which is headed by the CTO of Sony Pictures) working on much the same thing.

Now, Disney execs tell the Journal that its proposed Keychest service (which it is “quietly demonstrating” to outside tech and content companies) and the DECE aren’t mutually exclusive, but … I smell the beginnings of a digital locker war brewing.

And while I love the idea of a digital locker for all my videos, we got a serious “cloud computing” reality check earlier this month after hundreds of thousands of Sidekicks went haywire, sending who knows how much user data into limbo. If and when their respective services go live, Disney and the DECE will have to take pains to prove that our purchased digital video keys will be safe from server failures.

So yes … given the right safeguards in place, bring on the digital video locker—or lockers, as the case may be.

2 Responses to Disney unlocks a new form of digital distribution with its “Keychest” technology

  1. Buzz McLaughlin says:

    Jon– From the indie film producer’s pov, my only question with Keychest and any other big studio efforts to develop this kind of all inclusive digital distribution (and the enormous money they’re pouring into it) is why wouldn’t they at the same time be trying to work it so that every filmmaker would eventually have to go through their system to get access to their audience? I mean, I can’t imagine that they from the start haven’t designed their digital distribution future without building in trying to take complete control of how filmmakers can get to their audience. And therefore, eventually, they would be the giant gatekeepers of all content and also command exorbitant fees for the right to have access to and use of their all pervasive system.

    • jonreiss says:

      Yes a concern – with the Beta/VHS and DVD format wars I’m sure they are not just thinking about this for their content. However not sure how they would force everyone to participate. On the brighter side – there is probably independent of the studios working on a similar solution for non studio folks. There are some systems already that have some similar attributes on a much lower tech level. Thanks for writing.