How do you get the most out of digital content? It might mean getting consumers to pony up, but these days, content can be just as valuable when it’s given away for free. To maximize value in the tricky world of online distribution, California-based Macrovision helps keep content vendors in control of their creations online.
In 1983, Macrovision began working with Hollywood studios concerned about VHS technology, which enabled users to copy movies, record TV shows, and pirate copyrighted material in ways they couldn’t before. Macrovision built its brand by outfitting hundreds of millions of videocassettes with anti-piracy technology that interfered with the signal sent to a VCR attempting to make an unauthorized copy. The company has evolved along with content, and with its January 2007 acquisition of digital distribution company Mediabolic, Macrovision underwent a corporate remix to increase its focus on protecting digital assets from 21st-century pirating threats.
Just as content underwent a significant transformation when it was digitized, Macrovision sees content distribution undergoing a similar shift. According to Fred Amoroso, Macrovision’s CEO, “We believe that digital distribution is in its infancy today, and we will see dramatic growth over the next few years. It won’t be thought of as a separate channel, but considered a primary way people acquire, manage, and enjoy all of their content.”
Online, one business model definitely doesn’t fit all; the rise of ad-supported free content and the need for greater control over viral distribution has online publishers scrambling to walk the line between facilitating legitimate access and allowing content thieves to digitally plunder. To this end, Macrovision improved two core products this year, RightAccess and RightCommerce. RightAccess, which uses registration data to control distribution, added an advanced capability to enable publishers to collect better demographic data and fine-tune content, advertising, and access in real time based on that information. RightCommerce, Macrovision’s solution for publishers working with a variety of price structures, put into place a more secure two-phase authorization process and introduced a purchase-support system to lower customers’ deployment costs.
RightCommerce and RightAccess also popped up in some new Macrovision products in 2007, among them Digital Commerce Solution and Content Access Control. Both bundles emphasize flexibility on an enterprise scale. “We want to identify needs unique to different verticals,” explains Corey Ferengul, Macrovision’s VP of marketing and solutions. To that end, Macrovision’s products give publishers the ability to construct permissions based on registration and authentication data, yet don’t focus on restricting access, but rather on providing content companies with access and distribution options so they feel comfortable exploring new models. “We are not about a closed silo,” says Amoroso. “Rather, it’s about providing freedom to the user, to enhance their experience in an open environment.”
Both Digital Commerce Solutions and Content Access Control are designed to give creators the greatest degree of freedom in determining what security combination best suits their delivery needs. For instance, the U.K.’s Channel 4 television station uses Digital Commerce Solution to regulate its massive video-on-demand subscription service, which allows the public to download nearly every archived episode of its dozens of British hits. Online game companies have used Macrovision’s 2007 Asymmetric Code Blending tool (which comes with the company’s ActiveMARK and SafeDisc Advanced game security software) to allow gamers to share new programs through viral networks. When purchasers download a game, they get full access; if they share it with a friend, the game automatically reverts back to its trial version before it reaches its new user. The sophisticated level of control encourages digital content distribution through myriad online paths without compromising creators’ copyrights.
While digital pirates might be frustrated by Macrovision’s moves, legitimate creators and consumers have a lot to look forward to in 2008. “We’re continuing on that path to help content companies move more premium content online,” says Ferengul. “We believe the integration of our commerce capability with the networked media middleware will result in an offering that can greatly expand consumers’ options in how to discover, manage, acquire and enjoy digital content in the living room.” Macrovision hopes that by securing content commerce flexibly, it can add value to both ends of the distribution channel.
Fun Fact: Employees are encouraged to post any questions or feedback to the company’s anonymous “Ask Fred” message board where CEO Fred Amoroso will reply.