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UltraViolet Needs to Burnish Shine

4 Mar, 2013 By: Stephanie Prange

UltraViolet, the studios’ answer to digital ownership, is going through some growing pains — or a sophomore slump, if you will.

Based on a spectacular idea — the ability to buy a title once and play it anywhere on any device — and boosted by a vote of confidence from the largest sellthrough retailer Walmart, UltraViolet got off to a strong start.

But the initial surge of enthusiasm is in danger of waning, as noted by Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“It’s early days and part of the issue is the interface is not as good as it could be,” Lynton said. “They already have 10 million people signed up, but they’re not using it enough. And part of the reason they’re not using it enough is that it’s not easy enough to use.”

As an ambitious idea spanning various digital platforms and formats, UltraViolet got a pass on having to be perfect in the initial rollout, but that pass won’t last forever. If UltraViolet is to be an enduring format, those behind it need to both make it easier to use and let consumers know what it’s all about.

Walmart did a fine job in the beginning of advertising the promise of UltraViolet through its Vudu service, but more needs to be done.

When I ask my neighbors what Redbox is, they know. When I ask them about Netflix, many are subscribers.

But UltraViolet? Do they know what that is?

For the most part, the answer is no.

Every format has had its hiccups. Even DVD at times looked iffy. Certainly, Blu-ray Disc had many hurdles to overcome in  defeating HD DVD as the next-generation high-definition format.

There are pivotal points in each format’s evolution, points at which the studios make crucial decisions to galvanize public opinion.

This may be one of those points for UltraViolet.

Those companies and executives that think UltraViolet is the future of the business should accelerate their actions. Consumers have to be informed about the format’s advantages — and, yes, it needs to be easy to use.

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