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UltraViolet Titles Keep Coming, With More Details Due at CES

8 Dec, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey

'Horrible Bosses'

Consumer complaints and industry watchdog chastising aside, UltraViolet is speeding along, with more than two dozen titles released or announced thus far, and no signs of slowing down from the three major studios that have taken the leap.

“Building on the initial Warner Bros’ UltraViolet-enabled titles that have come out during the past eight weeks, Sony Pictures and NBC Universal have accelerated the availability of UltraViolet by beginning to offer consumers their content with the added feature of UltraViolet,” said Mark Teitell, executive director and GM of Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, or DECE, the cross-industry consortium behind UltraViolet.
In the face of mounting customer criticism about the service, Warner Home Video, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Universal Studios Home Entertainment were hesitant to discuss their experiences so far with the buy once, play anywhere cloud content system.
One studio representative did say the number of users who’ve taken advantage of UltraViolet would be discussed at a Consumer Electronics Show event in January.
Sony (The Smurfs and Friends With Benefits; Dec. 2) and Universal (Cowboys & Aliens; Dec. 6) released their first UltraViolet titles, but just like the first four UltraViolet releases from Warner (Horrible Bosses; Green Lantern; Crazy, Stupid, Love; and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2), accessing the UltraViolet version requires signing up to not only UVVU.com, but also Sony’s and Universal’s own websites.
“Notably, these three studios have jump-started UltraViolet’s consumer benefits by also deploying pilot implementations of UltraViolet-connected services, letting consumers populate and use their UltraViolet libraries for streaming and downloading to PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices,” Teitell said.
Sony and Universal UltraViolet copies do play on the Warner-owned Flixter.com, but that application must be downloaded to devices in order to view UltraViolet copies.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Paramount Home Entertainment and Lionsgate all are part DECE, but haven’t announced any UltraViolet titles yet.
DECE did announce that more details regarding UltraViolet would be released at next month’s CES show in Las Vegas.
“DECE … will provide a progress report on this open, interoperable cloud-based service, as well as insight into what you can expect from UltraViolet in the months ahead,” an invite for the Jan. 10 CES event promises.
But whether any hardware announcement would be revealed is anyone’s guess.
‘Play Anywhere’ Biggest Consumer Complaint
LG, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Philips and Toshiba are among the major consumer electronics companies that are part of DECE, and each will be at the 2012 CES, the time the DECE has targeted for the first announcements of hardware that would carry the UltraViolet logo. Those devices would fulfill the “Buy Once, Play Anywhere” motto the DECE tagged on UltraViolet.
But as it stands now, any device consumers want to watch their UltraViolet copies on requires using a studio application, and that’s got consumers in a huff. Many complaints center around the requirement of an Internet connection to currently access UltraViolet.
“I usually don't write reviews but I wanted to make sure that as many people as possible know to AVOID the UltraViolet digital copy if they want to synch the movies with iTunes,” wrote Nashville resident Tia Akimmi, in an Amazon.com review for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2. “I recently purchased a Warner Bros. title and found out what a pain UltraViolet is. The ‘digital copy’ does not synch with your [iTunes] devices, rendering the movie virtually useless.”
The studios that have pioneered UltraViolet have acknowledged that it’s not playing everywhere yet. Warner offered iTunes-compatible digital copy coupons to those consumers who complained about accessing UltraViolet for Deathly Hallows — Part 2.
And in its press announcement for Dream House (Jan. 31), Universal noted that the UltraViolet copy would play from the cloud, stream instantly to computers, tablets and smartphones “and soon, consumers can download to devices of their choice too.” Universal also will include a digital copy that’s compatible with Apple devices, aiming to ease complaints such as this one from Flixster.com user Michael Verhoef:
“‘Digital copy’ means I own the video and can do whatever I want with it,” he wrote. “It does not mean I have to create an account with an upstart website and only watch it through their software.”
A Dec. 8 Associated Press article called the UltraViolet launch a “fiasco” and showed “the stark differences between Hollywood and Silicon Valley when it comes to innovation.”
But if CES sees a major hardware boost for UltraViolet, and a steady stream of UltraViolet-enabled titles continues, these early bumps in the road may be forgotten.
“Which platforms consumers are really going to use is hard to predict,” said Steve Polsky, SVP of Flixster, speaking at a recent conference in Los Angeles. “This is inning one of a very long game.”
Russ Crupnick, entertainment industry analyst with The NPD Group, said UltraViolet needs to come out of CES with several compatible devices, and the studios and hardware companies “unified.”
“UltraViolet is starting from zero,” he said. “I think the issue with it at this point is there’s no consumer awareness or understanding of what the benefits are.”

UltraViolet Titles Released or Announced:
Horrible Bosses
Green Lantern
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2
The Smurfs
Friends With Benefits
Cowboys & Aliens
The Hangover Part II
One Tree Hill: The Complete Eighth Season
(Dec. 20)
Colombiana (Dec. 20)
Dolphin Tale (Dec. 20)
Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection (Dec. 20)
Shameless (Dec. 27)
Final Destination 5 (Dec. 27)
Contagion (Jan. 3)
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Jan. 3)
Moneyball (Jan. 10)
Killer Elite (Jan. 10)
Scorpion King 3: Battle For Redemption (Jan. 10)
The Ides of March (Jan. 17)
Courageous (Jan. 17)
The Thing (Jan. 31)
Drive (Jan. 31)
Dream House (Jan. 31)
Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax Deluxe Edition (Feb. 14)
Honey 2 (Feb. 21)
The Town Ultimate Collector’s Edition (March 6)

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