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Studios Need to Make a Case

20 Jan, 2012 By: Stephanie Prange

At this month’s International Consumer Electronics Show, we got a clearer picture of the support behind UltraViolet, the cloud-based digital copy platform backed by five of the six major studios.
At least one retailer, Amazon, is on board with the concept, as well as consumer electronics companies Samsung and Panasonic. Also, 750,000 households have opened accounts in the first three months of launch.

We also got an idea of the outliers, namely Disney, which has not yet joined the UltraViolet bandwagon and is touting its own yet-to-be-clarified (if it ever will be) All Access concept, and Netflix, which has put all its eggs in the rental streaming basket and reportedly has left the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), the cross-industry consortium behind UltraViolet. Rental isn’t the aim of UltraViolet, as the studio representatives on the CES panel seemed to stress by their continued focus on its sellthrough possibilities.

Also, if you happened by Samsung’s “Disc to Digital” demo on the show floor, there were hints about future revenue possibilities from UltraViolet. Samsung’s demo included the possibility to charge for upgrading a DVD-quality copy to high-definition, or charging for the upload of library discs into the cloud. Will studios charge consumers a nominal fee to upload their existing disc libraries into UltraViolet? What will that fee be? What fee would consumers swallow for getting a digital version of discs they already own?

While DECE made a significant step forward with its CES press conference — making this editor at least a little more comfortable about the future — it can’t stop there. There needs to be a continuous drumbeat of information about UltraViolet — all communication lines need to be open, lest the studios repeat the debacle they are facing with the piracy bills in Congress (see story, cover). When my daughter (13), who wants to be a writer, is on the side of the pirates, the studios haven’t gotten their message across.

A concerted and sustained consumer campaign about UltraViolet — and the antipiracy bills in Congress — is in order, and the studios better make it quick.

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