Digital Delivery – Film, TV & Advertising – A Layman’s View

Posted: 26th Jan 2017

The writer has been involved with the film and TV industry for some years now. It is as interesting as it is idiosyncratic, fantastic and frustrating at the same time but always challenging.

It has been pretty apparent for some years now that the film and TV world has embraced the technical advances the digital revolution has brought about for its content. However, it is curious that the way in which that digital content is delivered to the cinema or exhibitor has not changed to any great extent.

Whilst the use of tin cans containing perishable film is diminishing fast and the use of satellite delivery and briefcase sized DCP’s is common nowadays, the industry has yet to wholeheartedly embrace the obvious use of the internet as a means for content delivery. Satellite capacity does not give infinite capacity, needs to be booked in advance and does not accommodate late running production schedules. Nor does it allow much room, if any, for last minute adaptation or finalisation of content. DCP’s – the physical means of delivery of content to cinemas – is reliable but costly, not least because the DCP’s need to be recovered later for security of the content and future use. DCP’s wear out and need to be replaced and like dinosaur film reels the process has financial and environmental costs. Indeed, there are countries or territories that do not permit the recovery of DCP’s with the result that the unit cost rises. Moreover, there must come a point when, as Kodak recognised, the use of outdated technology is overtaken by the digital revolution.


So enter the internet delivery vehicle.

This involves none of the drawbacks of satellite delivery or the physical delivery associated with the DCP whether by van, motorcycle or even bicycle in some parts of the world. The encrypted film, TV programme or associated advertising is dissolved into its constituent pixels and delivered to the exhibitor projector or theatre management system ready for showing. This can be done well in advance as the content can only be unlocked when the exhibitor is given the relevant codes. This allows for control of the exhibitor’s activities and of course the codes are switched off on a pre-determined basis. perhaps this is one reason why exhibitors do not welcome the technology? No recovery costs are involved here.

Nor does any of this necessarily involve a requirement for expensive equipment to be installed by the exhibitor. Internet delivery can be used with existing theatre management systems and projectors.

So what is not to like about internet delivery?

Not much it would seem. But the answer as to why it is not yet widely used probably lies in the complex nature of the industry where creative and financial disciplines regularly clash. But (in the writer’s view) ultimately, the race to drive down costs and improve margins driven by content providers and distributors will lead to the abandonment of current practices in favour of digital delivery.