Advanced Television

‘Shot in the arm’ for UltraViolet

May 3, 2012

By Colin Mann

Digital content ownership ecosystem UltraViolet has been boosted by the ‘disc-to-digital initiative’ launched mid-April by US retail giant Walmart, according to senior industry executives and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes.

Speaking at Digital Hollywood in Marina Del Rey, California, NBC Universal digital distribution VP Michael Aaronson admitted to having made his first Electronic Sell Through (EST) purchases under the scheme. “It’s incredibly exciting to see it come to life,” he said. “The objective in the next year is what is standing in the way of [consumers] creating as many accounts as possible.”

Aaronson and his fellow panellists agreed that Walmart’s programme — linking titles from Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and DreamWorks Animation to UltraViolet — has been the shot in the arm the service needed.

At UltraViolet’s October 2011 launch, there were only a handful of titles enabled with the feature. Now, there are more than 5,000. In February the initiative counted 1 million consumer accounts, which has since risen to more than 2 million.

Justin Herz, SVP of direct-to-consumer for Warner Bros. Digital Distribution and GM of Warner Bros. Advanced Digital Services, said that in the initiative’s early days, it was hard to talk about the ecosystem, but was easier now. “You’ve got studio sites, you’ve got Vudu; you’ve got Flixster. You can really see what UltraViolet is all about,” he said, suggesting that while subscription VoD services such as Netflix and kiosk rental options such as Redbox had been revolutionary in their areas of home entertainment, sell-through had needed something such as UltraViolet for a jumpstart.

Mark Teitell, executive director and GM of Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), the cross-industry consortium behind UltraViolet, suggested that UltraViolet offers freedom and flexibility of what consumers can do with their content, giving them confidence and a sense of security that the cloud content belongs to them. He pointed out that Walmart’s disc-to-digital service provides a new way of accessing UltraViolet product beyond buying new release discs or via EST.

Teitell advised that three studios, along with retailers, should be offering UltraViolet in the UK by June 2012, and that by the end of the year, DECE will have finished new specifications on an UltraViolet download option that lets consumers move a downloaded file between devices.

Separately, Time Warner’s Bewkes confirmed that consumers registering movies to the UltraViolet digital locker topped 2 million accounts, including 1 million new accounts generated in the past four weeks. Warner Bros. was the first studio to launch UltraViolet releases in Autumn 2011 with Green Lantern and Horrible Bosses.

Discussing Time Warner’s Q1 results with analysts, Bewkes said he was “basically happy” with the launch of UltraViolet and saw it as a big accomplishment for the industry. He noted that it took five months to acquire the first 1 million UltraViolet accounts and just four weeks to generate the next 1 million accounts. “We think it’s going to be more compelling as more companies and consumers participate,” he added. Bewkes suggested that the Walmart programme, together with Amazon now selling UltraViolet titles – would help cement the concept with average consumers.


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