Hollywood sees Amazon as leverage for UltraViolet, but it's too late for this holiday season

editor's corner

Jim O'Neil

Digital content locker UltraViolet has been met with a collective yawn by consumers who really haven't "gotten" what all the fuss is about.

But Hollywood is continuing to try to get all of its ducks in a row, working to get more studios and content distributors to participate.

The latest distributor to be wooed, according to Bloomberg, is mega e-tailer Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), which reportedly is in discussions with several studios including Sony and Time Warner.

Amazon, with the sudden popularity of its Kindle Fire tablet, has moved to the front burner for studios, which see the tablet as an opportunity for them to solidify their efforts to maximize return on content by both making it both more available to consumers to watch on multiple devices and keeping their digital rights safe.

Of course having Amazon's bulk behind it is one way the studios believe they may be able to force other competitors [read: Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), in particular] into the UltraViolet fold.

Support for UltraViolet--the industry's next great hope to reverse the slide of DVD sales--generally has been widespread, with most of the major studios already behind it. The technology allows consumers to "store" a copy of movies they buy in a "digital locker" that they can access from other devices.

"Everyone is hoping this returns them to the golden era of DVDs when money fell out of the sky," said Scott Smyers, a former Sony exec who's now an analyst with Sunrise Digital Technologies.

More retailers are slowly climbing on board.

Barnes & Noble updated its Nook Color tablet software this month, allowing it to support social movie site and enabling consumers to use the cloud-based UltraViolet platform. Walmart got on board in September.

But there are a number of companies that have been reticent to join. Apple and Disney, for example, have balked, and those are two major players the rest of Hollywood really can't do without.

Part of the problem is that the two reportedly are working on their own competing technology, KeyChest. Part of the problem is that UltraViolet has been a dud with consumers, many of whom were frustrated and confused.

The Associated Press reported users were confused because they had to register on UltraViolet and Warner Bros.-owned Flixster website. They also had to--and this is a killer as you all know--download and install software before they could watch movies on their computers.

And, said the AP, "To make matters worse, it didn't work as advertised for owners of Apple's iPhones and iPads."

Things haven't really moved forward much since the Oct. 11 roll out, a launch that had consumers characterizing UltraViolet as a "horrible hoax" and feeling "conned."

"We're going to continue to learn over time," Mitch Singer, president of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, the movie industry and consumer electronics company consortium that created UltraViolet, told the AP earlier this month. "The experience will get better and better."

Perhaps. But it's likely to already have missed the crucial shopping season. UltraViolet for the holidays? Ho-ho-hum.--Jim

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