Fox and Warner Bros form new high-def DRM content group

Film and padlock

Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox have announced they are teaming with storage vendors SanDisk and Western Digital to form the Secure Content Storage Association, a new coalition that aims to offer consumers easier ways to store and move their high-definition digital video content—meaning, movies and TV shows—from device to device as well as access it from cloud services in up to full 1080p resolution. With the working title of “Project Phenix,” the technology aims to make the home sharing and accessing of digital content completely straightforward to consumers—while at the same time protecting high-def content end-to-end with DRM technologies to reduce piracy.

Part of the idea behind Project Phenix is to ease the pain of consumers owning their own digital copies of movies and television shows. Right now, many consumers can stream content from so-called “over-the-top” Internet services like Netflix and Hulu, but the quality is pretty much always lower than when they’d get on a physical disc. The studios want to encourage consumers to “own” high-definition digital copies stored on local devices (like DVRs, computers, media players, home theater systems, game consoles, and tablets), but realize they need to offer them in a way where DRM is invisible to consumers and where pristine booted digital copies don’t hit piracy sites within minutes of a new release. Project Phenix aims to provide easy-to-manage high-quality versions of digital content stored on users local devices—viewable without an Internet connection—with cloud-based services like UltraViolet backing it up for mobile devices and other uses.

“The vision for this new product is to store, play, and back up in the cloud personal and professional content,” said Mike Dunn, President, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, in a statement. “The device renders content up to 10 times faster than over-the-top Internet. We see Project Phenix as a key component of the emerging digital ecosystem.”

The SCSA doesn’t have any devices to demonstrate yet, but expects to have solutions “widely available for license” this year.

The real question for ideas like Project Phenix is whether consumers want it. Currently, DVD and Blu-ray sales are sagging and millions of consumers seem content with services like Netflix streaming, Amazon Video-on-Demand, and Hulu—and while studios are touting their UltraViolet initiative, it doesn’t seem to have deeply resonated with consumers. While smartphones, tablets, and gaming devices have enough storage to carry around significant amounts of video—and true movie fans will always want their own personal content library, rather than relying on streaming services—it’s not clear how much of a market exists for setting up and managing storage for digital TV and movie content within a home and to a handful of portable devices. Most consumers have trouble syncing their phones, let alone managing enormous media files. The most successful model on that front seems to be Apple’s iTunes—and, since Apple doesn’t license its FairPlay DRM, it seems unlike the SCSA’s technology will interoperate with iTunes.

One thing that is clear: the movie industry is very interested in new ways to sell their content to consumers, and if that means inventing a new platform, they’re willing to give that a shot.

[Image via Norebbo / Shutterstock]