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Disney's Plan to Unlock Digital Revenues

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Imagine being able to access your library of all the movies and TV shows you've purchased from any platform or gadget.

That's exactly what Disney wants its "Keychest" technology to do: to make a virtual library that you can access from anywhere, a reality.

Disney has developed a verification technology that it's making available to all content creators and distributors, for free, to build a new digital content business around easy access to your digital content library.

Disney's Keychest technology verifies what content you own, allowing you to instantly update your library on each participating platform. Disney aims to get a wide range of companies on board -- cable broadcasters, companies like Microsoft XBox and Sony Playstation , plus retailers like Amazon and Apple's iTunes . These companies would agree to make content you buy from each one of them available on each other's platforms, using the Keychest technology to verify what's in your library.

For example, if iTunes, Comcast and Disney all participate in Keychest, you could buy and watch content across any of their platforms. If you pop a Blu-Ray DVD into your computer and upload a digital file onto your desktop, iTunes and Comcast would immediately recognize that you own the movie, allowing you to watch it on your iPod or TV. If you buy a movie on your iPod, if you don't finish it by the time you get home, you can turn on your cable box and watch it on your TV. This would work with both purchases and rentals. If you rent a movie from Comcast or iTunes for a 24 or 48 hour window, you have unlimited access to the movie on any of the participating devices for that window.

Disney isn't charging to license the technology, and they don't want to run Keychest -- they're trying to get a consortium together to manage the rollout of the technology. So what's in it for Disney? It's in the media giant's best interest to build a viable and robust digital download business. If it's content is available on multiple platforms, consumers will be more likely to buy a digital copy if they get all this easy access

There's been a lot of talk about how Disney is going it alone instead of teaming up with DECE -- the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem. The president of global distribution for Walt Disney Studios, Bob Chapek clarifies that Disney's Keychest technology is complimentary, not competitive: DECE is developing a universal file type, that could exist within Keychest's technology. He explains that Keychest is a verification technology that can work with any file system. Now Disney is also developing its own file type -- Singlefile -- that's an alternative to DECE's file format, but DECE's many members don't have to ditch their plan if they want to participate in Keychest.

Now the big challenge is getting major tech and distribution players on board so the product can launch. says he and his team have been meeting one on one with potential partners -- cable companies, other movie studios, etc -- and they'll continue to hold meetings through CES. A lot hinges on whom Disney can get on board. Chapek says that the fact that Apple CEO Steve Jobs is on Disney's board won't help in striking a deal for Keychest, but it seems it should open doors. Disney wants to get the system up and running within the year. We'll see whom the Mouse House gets on board first.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.