20th Century Fox Joins Divx Cartel
Divx is an encrypted, time-constrained, pay-per-view DVD format promoted primarily by Circuit City, which owns 75% of Digital Video Express. A "purchased" Divx can be played an unlimited number of times on a Divx-modified DVD player for 48 hours after initialization. After that time, the "owner" of a Divx disc must agree to another viewing fee to have the disc reactivated. Viewing activity will be monitored by a Digital Video Express central computer. Divx players will play standard, non-encrypted DVDs, but normal players cannot play Divx discs.
The format has been greeted by near-universal condemnation by the home-entertainment media. Film studios have been persuaded to sign on by the promises of guaranteed revenue and reassurances that the potential for pirating their products will be substantially reduced. An ongoing public-relations effort is attempting to convince consumers that Divx will be amazingly convenient. Pat Wyatt, interim head of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, repeated that sentiment. "We believe that Divx is a great proposition for the growing number of consumers entering the digital video marketplace," Wyatt says.
Circuit City is gambling big on Divx: according to one studio executive, 20th Century Fox was guaranteed at least $20 million for joining the Divx cartel, and Paramount et al. were promised approximately $30 million each. New releases, including the sci-fi thriller Alien Resurrection and last year's surprise hit The Full Monty, will appear "day and date" with their VHS equivalents, say 20th Century Fox execs. Back-catalog products will also be released as Divx discs.
Expect an avalanche of advertising: a full roll-out of Divx---both hardware and software---should be underway by mid-summer. In a move that some analysts view as hedging their bets, Disney and Universal are also releasing titles as standard DVDs.