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Early Release the Way to Go

22 May, 2014 By: Thomas K. Arnold

A new NPD study finds that UltraViolet users are 11 times more likely to have made an electronic sellthrough purchase in the past year, compared to other U.S. consumers, and four times more likely to own a connected Blu-ray Disc player or other streaming media device.

The research group calls Ultraviolet users “early adopters” who like early adopters of other technologies — most notably, DVD and Blu-ray Disc — tend to be voracious consumers of entertainment and much more tech-savvy than mainstream folks.

If the pattern holds true, we have nothing to worry about: The early adopters set the trend and everyone else follows, just like that.

The problem is, Ultraviolet isn’t a new product, it’s more of a concept — and selling people on a concept is significantly more difficult than pitching them something tangible.

And the concept we are selling here is buying movies electronically rather than physically — a much bigger stretch than getting someone to switch from a videocassette to a disc.

Compounding matters is that UltraViolet is really the means to an end. It’s a way of storing purchased content in the cloud and then accessing it anywhere, at any time, on any device. It’s designed to add value to physical discs and transition consumers to the end game, which is buying movies electronically, without any disc at all, with the same promise of ubiquitous access and availability.

In that sense, then, the other means Hollywood has employed to effect this transition — early release windows — is much simpler and easier to understand. You can buy The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on disc right before Christmas, but you can buy the film electronically two or three weeks earlier, for less money — and watch it just as easily on your home theater setup as on your smartphone.

Bingo. That’s the magic formula, and we as an industry need to promote the heck out of it.

As for UltraViolet, it’s a wonderful idea, but the execution has been miserable — we should have had a common, universal website from the get-go, and everyone should have been onboard from the start.

Given the countless obstacles and resistance from some quarters, it’s amazing that UltraViolet has been accepted as widely as it has been. But in the big picture, UltraViolet is small potatoes: The real trick is selling digital downloads, and hyping the hell out of early release is the way to go.

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