Finding the right balance between the risks and the rewards offered by new digital technologies will be one of the thorniest questions facing the next wave of Hollywood executives: How can they exploit the new delivery systems these technologies offer without cannibalizing their existing business or losing control of their libraries to pirates?
Right in the middle of that debate is Darcy Antonellis. As senior VP of distribution technologies and technical operations for Warner Bros., she is responsible for servicing the sales and distribution entities within the studio, making certain that film and television product is mastered and delivered to theaters, television stations, and home-video and other outlets.
While digital technologies make it possible to deliver that product faster and more efficiently, they also "open up the studio to additional exposure to the risks of piracy," Antonellis admits. "We've taken a methodical approach to implementing those technologies so we can minimize those risks. But," she adds, "no one can turn the clock back. We see them as an opportunity versus viewing technological change as creating inherent risks and obstacles."
That careful analytical approach to tough problems has long characterized Antonellis's career. Early on, she wanted to be a journalist but, in college, quickly realized that her skills were more analytical than creative, and she switched majors to engineering. Even as an engineering student, she kept her interest in the media and landed a job as an intern at CBS, an experience that led to a 14-year stint at the company.
Working on the technical and operational side of the network business, she was involved in creation of a wide variety of news, sports and entertainment programming for CBS in both New York and Washington. But she is particularly proud of her work as head of operations at the CBS News Bureau in Washington and her work heading operations and engineering for CBS Sports' coverage of the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
On the news side, she says, "I was lucky to see history in the making," working on such events as the 1988 elections, the Bush/ Gorbachev Summit, Operation Desert Storm and the 1992 PLO treaty signing. An even bigger challenge came with the planning for the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Working with a core team of 20 people during a 21/2-year period, Antonellis eventually oversaw an operations and engineering effort that carried off an intense two-week period of coverage involving 1,700 people. "It took a few years off my life," she quips.
But the stress and intense deadlines of live television, she adds, proved an invaluable experience for her current job. "Working in live television provided me with a wonderful foundation for managing deadlines and prioritizing tasks. It really cuts through the noise and makes you focus on getting the job done. You can't just put up a slide and tell viewers you're not ready to go on the air."
These deadlines are likely to get even tighter in the future as new delivery systems, such as VOD, become even more important. "The new delivery systems are developing and expanding," she says, "and we will use technology to produce and propagate content in much tighter time frames."