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DCDC CEO: Satellite Delivery of Movies on the Rise

By Caleb Henry | June 1, 2016
Satellite Antenna DCDC Cinema

Photo: DCDC

[Via Satellite 06-01-2016] The digitization of film and other content to movie theaters and venues in the U.S. has reached the point where it is nearly ubiquitous, creating opportunity for satellite to grow. Around 94 percent of theater screens in the country are digital, according to Randy Blotky, CEO of the Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition (DCDC), showing how well accepted the technology is today. In an interview with Via Satellite, Blotky said people are embracing the benefits of going digital everyday, and are learning to use it better.

DCDC uses satellite and terrestrial distribution technologies to provide theatrical digital delivery services across North America. The organization formed through the collaborative efforts of AMC Theatres, Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark Theatres, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment — an unlikely mix of partners, Blotky said, because studios and the exhibition community within Hollywood don’t always see eye to eye. The teamwork proved successful: since founding in October of 2013, DCDC has grown from an initial base of 300 satellite-installed theater sites to more than seven times that amount.

“We are up to a little over 2,100 installed sites (close to 26,000 screens),” Blotky told Via Satellite. “We have a queue of another approximately 500 sites that are under contract. We have almost 130 exhibitor chains that we signed up in addition to the 34 content providers, including all six major studios.”

DCDC’s platform enables the digital delivery of movies and other forms of entertainment faster and more cost effectively than physical deliveries. Satellite currently is the optimal infrastructure to deliver content, Blotky said. DeluxeEchoStar is the organization’s primary service provider, Kencast the primary technology provider, and Hughes Network Systems leads installation and maintenance. Customers include Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, The Walt Disney Company, Lionsgate, Twentieth Century Fox, and a growing number of others. By the end of 2015, the DCDC network made almost 400,000 deliveries of features and other content to theaters nationwide.

“As the users of the system learn how it can be used, it’s spawning different kinds of content, new ways of distributing older content and it’s changing the internal business models of some of the people who have been delivering movies, alternative content and other kinds of content to theaters for years,” said Blotky.

Blotky said the number of disparate players in the entertainment industry working together is what makes DCDC such a rare story for this sector. Asked why, he said the impetus for teamwork was simply because the need for an organization to handle digital distribution was so great. He said having scale helps keep prices down for exhibitors and content providers. DCDC relied on funding from its five founders until January 2014, after which it became self-funding.

“That’s what is actually the most unique thing about DCDC: its ownership and upbringing. It’s never happened before in the history of the entertainment industry,” he said.

DCDC has plans to expand its reach into Canada in the near future. Blotky said he anticipates entering this market within the next couple years, though they are waiting on Deluxe to help open this market. Beyond North America, Blotky said he expects other “DCDC-esque” platforms will rise up in other parts of the world, but he cautioned that nationalistic satellite policies could create barriers to reaching the scale needed.

“With some of the international laws and regulations that have been passed about usage of a country’s own satellites, e.g. instead of having a pan-Latin American satellite, you might have a satellite for every country, or in Europe or other places in the world. Those kinds of issues have to be solved, but I think that’s best done by a consortium of exhibition and content providers together,” he explained.

For DCDC, the organization’s delivery platform is agnostic to how the content is transported. Blotky said while satellite makes the most sense today, tomorrow it could be a high-speed terrestrial solution with other sorts of last mile solutions. Even cheap, two-terabyte flash drives could obviate the need for costlier infrastructure, he said, should they become cost effective enough. For now however, satellite distribution is key.