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Panelists Mull What's Next for UltraViolet

17 Oct, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. — Going back a year, when UltraViolet was first launched, Mark Teitell couldn’t have guessed where the service would be today.


“So far, so good,” the GM and executive director of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) said Oct. 17 at Digital Hollywood.

There are more than 5 million UltraViolet accounts, more than 7,200 UltraViolet-enabled titles and five retailers selling UltraViolet digital titles — Walmart, Flixster/Warner, Sony, Paramount and Universal — with Barnes & Noble and M-Go (a joint venture between Technicolor and DreamWorks Animation) set to roll out soon.

UltraViolet is live in the United States and United Kingdom, with a Canadian launch planned by the end of the year. The service will launch in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France and Germany next.

Teitell said consumers are both streaming and downloading UltraViolet-enabled content, using content they’ve purchased outside of the retailer that sold it, and studios are releasing more titles in more ways with UltraViolet attached.

“We’re starting to see some evidence from studios of aggressive pricing to help adoption of UltraViolet,” said Brad Hunt, president of consulting firm Digital Media Directions.

Hunt pointed to the aggressive electronic sellthrough pricing from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for Prometheus, the studio’s first UltraViolet title.

Next for UltraViolet is the completion and launch of the service’s common file format (CFF). Once UltraViolet’s CFF is finalized, UltraViolet files downloaded are expected to work across platforms and devices, instead of each retailer having different files for their service.

“To the consumer, they already have interoperability at some level,” noted Richard Berger, SVP of global digital strategy and operations for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “What CFF will do is once you download it, any player will play it. Today we have different file formats for every service. It’s going to be an added incremental benefit.”

CFF is currently in business-to-business testing, Teitell said, with consumer testing expected “soon.” Resolution formats, subtitles and the ability to work in the cloud environment are among the challenges DECE is tackling with the CFF.

Barnes & Noble is launching its UltraViolet-enabled Nook Video service this fall, and Cary Grant, head of business development and Nook Video content acquisition for
Barnes & Noble, said as long as more retailers such as his sign on, UltraViolet will continue to grow by leaps and bounds.

Amazon, Best Buy, Netflix and Apple are among the services the DECE is hoping will eventually sign on with UltraViolet.

For Gerald Hensley, VP of entertainment sales at Rovi, the next big thing for UltraViolet will be at-home disc-to-digital conversion, where consumers don’t have to go to Walmart to have unlocked UltraViolet versions of discs they already own.

“The in-store model is attractive for studios, because the disc and UltraViolet code matches,” he said, pointing to director’s editions and extended cuts of the same movies.

Rovi recognition technology for hardware featuring disc-to-digital in the home should ensure that, along with determining whether a disc was rented or pirated, Hensley said.

“Disc-to-digital is a true, nearly universal want among consumers,” Teitell said.

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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