The film industry needs to embrace the challenges and opportunities offered by new distribution platforms or lose out as consumers go elsewhere for content.

That is the view of Ian Lewis, Director of Sky Movies & Sky Box Office, at BSkyB.

Lewis was the keynote speaker at today's Screen International-backed Maximising Digital Rights Values conference in London, where he kicked off the day of high-level industry discussion.

The eventis focusingon the challenges and opportunities for content owners as theindustry moves towards a digital future for audiovisual content distribution.

'You have to embrace this challenge head-on,' said Lewis. 'You have to accept that a shift is inevitable. And if you don't embrace the change, someone else will.'

Falling revenues from both DVDs and the box office mean that the emerging platforms presented by digital convergence represent exciting alternative opportunities for content distribution.

As Lewis pointed out to delegates, 'On the face of it, the internet and movies are made for each other. It's a distribution channel capable of delivering an almost infinite choice of movies, in high quality, on-demand. What's not to like''

Lewis argued that online distribution provides tremendous potential to level the playing field in distribution - providing producers and independents with the opportunity to reach audience levels that have previously been the preserve of the majors.

However, while digital platforms provide the opportunity for more producers to make more content available to consumers, they also present some fundamental challenges to the industry's existing business models.

For Lewis, that has to translate into a major rethink on release windows. He urged delegates to grasp the power of the internet for their own.

'[The online world is] a wider, richer, multi-platform landscape which gives consumers more opportunities - not less - to engage with movies,' he said. 'Of course, the theatrical window is important, but it is not always convenient and it cannot exist in a vacuum. There is too much to gain by working together and looking beyond the windows that have for so long defined our horizons. Instead of worrying if the pie is big enough for all of us, everyone in this room needs to consider whether we can collectively grow it.'

Several industry commentators have criticised the industry for being too slow in developing the business models needed to deliver new distribution platforms for the benefit of both content owners and consumers.

Nodding to the industry's reaction to the advent of TV, VHS and DVD, Lewis highlighted that this was not the first time industry has been reluctant to act quickly.

'The film industry has a cyclical pattern of fear and resistance. There are clear signs of history repeating itself,' Lewis said.

However in the past the industry has had to adapt, as Lewis explained, not least because consumer demand and behaviour 'force change'.

It is that shift in consumer behaviour in relation to accessing content that Lewis feels the industry can no longer afford to ignore.

'The only constant remains consumers' appetite for change and their ability to evolve their consumption,' he said. 'No-one can be exactly sure which platform users will adopt. But 10 years from now, the distribution landscape will look very different.'

Stay tuned to for more from the conference.