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Cheers For TWICE’s Tarr, Jeers For Hollywood Studios

I take great pleasure in being able to use this column to join many others in voicing congratulations to TWICE executive editor Greg Tarr on being a co-winner of the Best DTV Journalism Award presented by the Academy of Digital Television Pioneers.

I have something of a double-barreled interest in this. First, because I am among the 150 Academy members, and second because Greg eased into my former slot as TWICE’s video section editor as I shed responsibilities in preparation for retiring as editor-in-chief.

So it should be no surprise that I take a degree of personal pride in the way Greg has distinguished himself by earning this recognition from the industry we serve.

Greg shares his award with co-winner Mike Snider of USA Today, who in a sense has the more difficult time covering the DTV business. Mike, unlike Greg, covers a wide range of subjects, DTV being only one. So whenever he returns to the topic to report on some development of interest, he has to get back up to speed on what has happened since his last report. Greg, of course, is a full-timer.

And while this is no knock on Mike, who I respect and consider one of my journalism friends, Greg’s award was significantly more of an achievement.

It is a safe bet that every time Mike writes a DTV story for USA Today, or it gets picked up by another Gannett daily, almost every Academy member reads it in the paper, has a copy put on his desk or gets it in an e-mail.

TWICE provides Greg with no comparable ease of reach as only a handful ever actually sees a copy of the publication. That Greg’s reporting is considered so significant that it somehow gets circulated to the point where half the voting Academy members named him as the journalism award winner is a major tribute to the quality of his work.

In other matters, I continue to be amazed at the credulity of the CE industry in dealing with the movie industry regarding the development of an anti-copy system that also offers a degree of protection to the consumer’s right to make innocent copies. Every time the joint working groups come close to agreeing on a solution, the studio heads come up with yet another roadblock.

As I see it, commercial piracy aside, the constantly stated concern over casual consumer copying ranks second to another problem. Hollywood has no sense of urgency over joining the digital high definition revolution.

The reality is that another format doesn’t necessarily mean increased sales volume. With both cassette and DVD sales booming, the studios see little immediate need to reach any sort of compromise on any standard for digital software that doesn’t give them total and absolute control over copying. That’s something they have wanted, and have been unable to get, since the dawn of the home video era.

It took the demands, not of consumers or retailers, but of movie stars, directors and producers, to force Hollywood to accept the home video concept that now generates more than half their business. What will it take to get Hollywood to accept and support digital video? I wish I knew. What I am sure of is it will have to involve the profit motive.

Hollywood has never backed any new format without first getting an up-front financial incentive of some kind. With Disney, Fox and Warner now all deeply involved in broadcasting and cable, I am guessing that the leadership will eventually stem from there. Hollywood will eventually come around. But when is still well up in the air.