Amy Jo Smith (photo by Bobby Quillard)

Thomas K. Arnold

No celebration of the DVD launch, and the quarter century of digital entertainment it spawned, would be complete without a nod to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, the professional home entertainment organization representing the most world’s leading media and entertainment companies, consumer electronics manufacturers, platform providers and technology companies.

What was originally known as the DVD Video Group was formed in June 1997, four months after the launch of DVD in the United States, with the goal of being the “single source” of information on the format, Billboard observed at the time. The new group had 17 founding member companies, represented by leaders from the company’s software and hardware sectors, including Paul Culberg of Columbia TriStar Home Video, Mike Fidler of Sony Electronics, John Powers of Warner Home Video, Rusty Osterstock of Panasonic and Jeff Fink of LIVE Entertainment. The initial executive committee included President David Bishop, then with MGM/UA Home Video, and Vice President Steve Nickerson, then with Toshiba America Consumer Products, as well as Vice President David Garber of LIVE and President Emiel Petrone, Vice -Executive Chairman of Philips Electronics. Amy Jo Smith was its executive director, with Marc Finer as technical director.

DEG’s current Board of Directors is made up of companies spanning content owners, consumer electronics manufacturers, distribution platforms and their technology partners. Each of these segments is represented among the group’s executives, which include Jim Wuthrich of WarnerMedia (Chairman), Dan Cohen of Paramount Global Distribution Group (Vice Chairman), Andrea Downing of PBS Distribution (CFO), Rick Hack of Intel ( secretary) and Matt Strauss of NBCUniversal Media/Peacock (chairman emeritus).

Responsible for building industry support as well as consumer awareness, the DVD Video Group has played a key role in transforming DVD into the fastest growing product in consumer electronics history. When it was created, only half of the industry supported DVD. In 2001, all the major studios and consumer electronics companies were on board. At launch, consumer awareness of the DVD was less than 20%. In 2001, it was 90%.

Since then, the group, which adopted its current name in 2003, has worked tirelessly to improve and promote home entertainment by evolving from DVD to Blu-ray Disc and digital distribution, including streaming. Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Co., led the group as chairman and then president from 2002 to 2009. He worked closely with Smith, now chairman and chief executive, to refocus the group with a broader mission he said at the time “reflects our organization’s forward-looking commitment to exploring new issues and opportunities related to emerging technologies on the horizon.

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While DEG has had many industry innovators at its helm – including Chapek, Strauss, Sony Electronics’ Mike Fasulo, 20th Century Fox’s Mike Dunn and Warner Bros.’ Ron Sanders. – a leader remained constant. Smith has led the organization since he helped found it, with a mandate to regularly realign the group to meet changing industry needs amid a stream of market disruptions. She is well known in the industry and is often the first call voters make when looking to make a connection or find a new job.

More recently, DEG’s “forward-looking commitment” to emerging technologies has focused on the increased need for cross-industry collaboration as the volume of content created globally has exploded. In the second year of the pandemic, DEG established the Advanced Content Delivery Alliance (ACDA), a working community tasked with addressing advances in technology to enable better digital content delivery and customer experience. It followed DEG’s Direct-to-Consumer Alliance (D2CA), which was created in 2019 to focus on companies with a direct-to-consumer offering. Both alliances have been beneficial in attracting new members to DEG, which now has 84 participating companies, the highest number in its 25-year history.

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From the introduction of DVD to the current direct-to-consumer streaming boom, DEG’s “proudest achievement is its ability to adapt to changing industry dynamics to support member companies in their efforts to grow the industry and improve the delivery of content to fans.” Smith says. Looking ahead, Smith says that this agility in serving the industry will continue to be a priority that evolves with new formats, platforms, and more. forms and technologies.