Promising a new way of buying movies, it took some time for UltraViolet to see the light of day and it is still unclear whether it will break through the cloud. A new promotion will include free movies with purchase of connected televisions and disc players from major manufacturers. Hollywood desperately needs to persuade people to keep buying movies to store in a virtual digital locker, but it will be a hard sell against other subscription services.
Appearing as part of the the keynote address of the International CES trade show, Ron Sanders, the president of Warner Home Video, revealed that there will soon be 10 million UltraViolet accounts, with over 8,500 movies available.
So far, however, people have been slow to take to the concept of having a digital copy in the cloud that comes with certain rights but many restrictions.
A new initiative will see the movie industry come together with major consumer electronics manufacturers to promote the format. It is backed by LG, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and Vizio.
“Later this year, consumers who purchase select connected televisions or connected Blu-ray players from these manufacturers will receive up to ten free UltraViolet movies,” he promised.
“It provides extra value to hardware consumers while providing another gateway for movie fans to enjoy their favourite films digitally, anytime, anywhere on the device of their choosing,” he said.
Representatives of four other major movie studios joined him on stage and stood in support. Disney is notably absent from the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem consortium backing the initiative, as is Apple.
Progress is also being made on plans to allow consumers to upgrade their existing disc titles to enable them to be accessed from the internet cloud, which they have confusingly called “Disc to Digital”. The idea is that retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy will allow users to convert their current DVD or Blu-ray discs into UltraViolet enabled copies.
Wal-Mart launched a service that required customers to physically take their discs into a store, which unsurprisingly did not prove too popular. Both retail chains are now testing services that will allow users to validate discs at home using a software player and pay a few dollars more to upgrade them to include either a standard or high-definition version as part of their account in the cloud.
The hope is presumably that users will prefer to use a service like UltraViolet rather than simply ripping the discs themselves and managing their own copies.
The movie industry desperately needs UltraViolet to succeed in order to migrate users from the lucrative but steadily declining disc market into online models.
However, the concept of a digital rights “locker” is a construct of lawyers and technologists and currently has little meaning for consumers and most people have only a vague concept of what it might mean to keep something in the “cloud”.
The problem is that “purchasing” and “ownership” of a movie title by a customer is increasingly misleading and meaningless in the digital era and persuading people that there is value in a virtual licence may be more difficult than the studios imagine.