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Panel: UltraViolet Success Hinges on Consumer Education

19 Oct, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey

'Horrible Bosses'

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. — When UltraViolet was just getting off the ground, Adam Powers, VP of technology at Rovi Corp., gave the buy-once-play-anywhere initiative a one in four chance of succeeding.

What about today, with two UltraViolet-enabled titles out and more announced weekly (Warner Home Video’s Final Destination 5 on Dec. 27 being the latest)?

“Ninety percent,” he said of UltraViolet’s chances, speaking Oct. 19 at the Digital Hollywood conference.

The studio support is there, with five of the six majors on board and three — Warner, Sony and Universal — already announcing or streeting UltraViolet-enabled Blu-ray Discs. Several major consumer electronics companies are on board, with UltraViolet-enabled hardware expected in early 2012.

It’s all about getting the right message across to consumers now, panelists agreed.

“When the studios did DVD, it was CD with video. With Blu-ray it was DVD in high-def,” Powers said. “With UltraViolet [there’s no comparison]. At the end of the day, consumers are going to decide if it’s valuable to them or not. There is that risk of putting it out there and consumers saying they’re not interested in the value proposition.”

True ownership of purchased content in the digital space, and the ability to use that content mostly anywhere you want, is the message the industry needs to promote for UltraViolet, and that message will be crucial in the early days of UltraViolet, agreed Sapth Sholingapuram, VP of product management for Deluxe Digital Studios.

“Consumers may ask, ‘Why is it different from Netflix; why is it different from Apple?’” he said. “It’s a long-term benefit. … In the short term, it’s going to be a challenge to differentiate itself.”

Justin Herz, SVP at Warner Bros. Digital Distribution and GM of Warner Bros. Advanced Digital Services, noted that Warner already has committed to the message with UltraViolet featured heavily in ad spots for Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern.

“In the coming months you’ll see a lot more messaging,” he said. “The freedom this whole ecosystem provides is absolutely something consumers want. How to communicate that in a 15-second, 30-second spot is a challenge.”

Brad Hunt, president of consulting company Digital Media Directions, said UltraViolet’s biggest challenge at the moment is achieving widespread brand awareness. To Jason Spivak, SVP of worldwide digital distribution for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, the challenge also involves all UltraViolet-vested companies achieving “a common vernacular.”

“It’s an important distinction that UltraViolet isn’t a service. It’s a product, maybe a product enhancement,” Spivak said.

By the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Powers predicts roughly 15% of hardware devices will support UltraViolet, and that every content owner will be a member of UltraViolet’s parent group, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem.

For Sholingapuram, something more important should happen by that date.

“My hope is there isn’t much buzz about UltraViolet in 2013, because it’s already a household name by then,” he said.

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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