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Six Questions: Ultraviolet’s Mitch Singer

3 Sep, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

Mitch Singer

It has the potential to change the landscape of home entertainment, offering consumers an opportunity to buy a physical disc or digital download, and then play that content on multiple other devices, with no added charge.

The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem’s (DECE) UltraViolet concept works off a “buy once, play anywhere” philosophy and already has a mix of nearly 60 content and hardware companies who’ve bought into it.

Home Media Magazine caught up with Mitch Singer, DECE president and chief technology officer for Sony Pictures Entertainment, to discuss the potential impacts UltraViolet will have on the way consumers use their entertainment.

HM: Imagine a consumer buying a DVD or Blu-ray Disc next year, and they see the UltraViolet logo on the case. What is that going to mean for the consumer and the content they purchase?

Singer: UltraViolet will mean consumer choice, confidence and freedom.

When consumers see the UltraViolet logo on a DVD or Blu-ray Disc it means that they will be able to watch that movie not only from their Blu-ray player, but also on other devices, such as mobile phones or other Web-enabled devices with apps from UltraViolet partners. Consumers will know exactly how, when and where they’ll be able to access and play their movies and TV shows.

UltraViolet will give consumers a flexible, consistent and predictable entertainment experience.

HM: How will UVVU.com work to facilitate the experience of UltraViolet?

Singer: UVVU.com will be one of many ways consumers will be able to access their UltraViolet Digital Rights Locker.

We envision most consumers will be accessing their UltraViolet Digital Rights Locker through their retailer of choice. This will allow consumers to purchase their content and have their digital proof-of-purchases instantly added to their UltraViolet Digital Rights Locker. The UltraViolet Digital Rights Locker will live in the cloud and allow consumers to manage their content, devices and family members from home or on the go.

What’s important here is that for the first time consumers will be able to see all their digital movie and TV libraries in one place, regardless of where the content was purchased. This has never been done before.

HM: What does UltraViolet mean for consumer’s physical and digital content? Do consumers need to be concerned with their content in the cloud?

Singer: The UltraViolet Digital Rights Locker will keep track of all of the consumers’ UltraViolet digital purchases, whether they bought a movie or television show on Blu-ray disc or digital download. UltraViolet does not store the actual content. When a consumer logs in, UltraViolet will verify that the consumer has purchased a film, and will then allow the consumer to stream or download their movies from a participating UltraViolet service.

In regards to physical media, UltraViolet was developed with Blu-ray in mind. Physical media is not going away any time soon, so it was crucial that both offerings complement each other.

Additionally, with the digital entertainment marketplace being as nascent as it is, it was important that DECE establish a framework that would grow in tandem with the physical media market.

HM: Will UltraViolet be compatible with consumer’s existing home entertainment systems? Or will they need to purchase new devices?

Singer: Ensuring backward compatibility was a topic that DECE spent a lot of time discussing. It’s important for our success, but also important to us as consumers.

There will be three ways consumers could potentially take advantage of UltraViolet content on legacy devices:

1) Upgrade firmware for Web-enabled devices (e.g. laptops, gaming consoles)
2) Stream the content to any Web-enabled device
3) Store to physical media (e.g., burn to a DVD)

HM: Does DECE and UltraViolet feel all digital rights management concerns have been addressed, and why?

Singer: Without adequate content protection, studios would not be able to offer consumers all the great choices they have today to watch movies: from rental to subscription to sellthrough.  Content protection enables consumer choice.

One reason DVD has been so successful is because most consumers don’t even realize it is protected. Consumers buy a DVD, and it just plays. That is what we are doing with UltraViolet:  giving consumers enough flexibility with the content that they don’t even realize it’s protected.

DECE has approved five different content protection solutions that will allow consumers to make unlimited copies on registered UltraViolet devices and stream content to Web-enabled devices. With DECE’s advanced media format, the approved security solutions with be interoperable with one another.

UltraViolet will deliver a compelling value proposition to consumers that no other product or service can deliver. We think that value is something consumers will be willing to pay for.

HM: There are a few notable companies that haven’t signed on yet with DECE and UltraViolet. Are these companies in a wait-and-see mode, and what will it take for every company with a vested interest in cloud content to join?

Singer: DECE has an amazing roster of members to date. I can’t say what other companies are thinking, but I can say that our door is always open, and we’d love for more companies to join.

I’d also point out that membership is not required to build UltraViolet products and services.
UltraViolet is built on an open platform so any company interested in building UltraViolet products and services can simply take out a license.

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