Connecting Streaming to the Living Room

At the Connections 2007 Digital Living Conference and Showcase in Santa Clara next week, several industry leaders explored opportunities for bringing streaming content to the living room. In a wide-ranging panel discussion called "Future Opportunities: The Next Big Thing," led by Stuart Sikes, president of conference sponsor Parks Associates, the panelists talked about the current chaos surrounding DRM, the need to pare down devices—and remote controls—so that the consumer is not overwhelmed, and the need for new forms of advertising.

On the topic of digital rights management (DRM), which recently has garnered attention from the MPAA, Adobe, and other industry leaders, the panelists were in agreement that DRM is a necessity—but one that could be made much simpler.

"DRM is a chasm we must cross, as we need to keep from confusing the consumer," said Scott Voegele, director of product marketing for Westell Technologies. "With the advent of more DRM standards, we need to seriously explore how content will negotiate the ‘DRM jungle’ so that the consumer can watch on the devices they want to watch on."

"It’s not realistic to think of one DRM standard in the next few years, but the ‘DRM jungle’ is hurting business," said Sheau Ng, VP of consumer and broadcast technology for NBC Universal. "The best DRM is one that a consumer never knows exists. That was the original intent, but as engineers we’ve misjudged how to do ‘transparent DRM’ for devices."

When the moderator suggested that last year’s comment by a content owner that content owners be subsidized for lost content, the panel acknowledged the problem but suggested alternate means of compensation.

"The motion picture industry has been saying this for years, but it’s true," said Ng, "everyone in the digital economy will suffer if we don’t get a handle on digital piracy."

"From our standpoint in the consumer device space, there’s no room to subsidize the content owners for ‘lost revenue’ from digital piracy," said John Kang, senior director of business development, Samsung Electronics, "so we need to find ways to push forward new forms of advertising."

One of those alternate methods of compensation was suggested by the panel’s other consumer device manufacturer.

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