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Summary:

What do consumers think about UltraViolet, Hollywood’s new attempt to preserve its physical disc business, curtail piracy and sell content without Apple’s help through a digital file locker? Judging from numerous reviews on Amazon.com, it looks like quite a few of them are pretty upset.

ultraviolet

Talk about a bad first impression: The first two Blu-ray discs featuring Hollywood’s new UltraViolet cloud locker have been met with a lot of criticism from consumers, who have been calling the technology an “awful move,” “bogus,” a “joke” and a bunch of other things we can’t reprint here in numerous reviews on Amazon.com. Many consumers took issue with the fact that they couldn’t download the digital version onto their iPad, and one wrote: “All I can say is that their digital cloud is a bunch of hot air that smells REALLY bad.”

UltraViolet is Hollywood’s attempt to prolong the life of its physical disc business, create an alternative to digital movie rentals and sales through Apple’s iTunes store and at the same time curtail piracy by controlling what users can do with downloaded copies and cloud-hosted versions of a movie.

Warner Bros. was the first studio to market with two UltraViolet-enabled discs, The Green Lantern and Horrible Bosses. At least in theory, consumers can use Warner’s Flixter service to access digital streams of both titles. However, in practice, it looks like the experience isn’t quite as streamlined as the studio had hoped for. Check out the Amazon reviews for both movies, and you’ll hardly find a good word about UltraViolet. Instead, you’ll find a number of accounts like this one:

“After creating accounts for both Flixster and Ultraviolet, [sic] linking the accounts, enabling WB to view my personal information, the system hangs and doesn’t download the movie. I contacted Ultraviolet first with the issues and error messages. After a day, I was told this is not an Ultraviolet issue, but a Flixster problem. I then contacted Flixster. They responded by sending me to the FAQ. To date, I have not gotten a proper response from Flixster on the error messages. I plan on canceling both accounts and will NEVER buy another DVD tied to Ultraviolet.”

Other consumers report problems playing streams in Firefox, a crashing Flixster app and disappearing streams in their cloud lockers. What seems to enrage most reviewers, however, seems to be the fact that Warner labeled the discs as having a “digital copy”: a term that previously was synonymous with a separate file that can be played back through iTunes or Microsoft’s Windows Media Player. UltraViolet does allow downloads that can be played through a dedicated application, but the emphasis is on streaming. The inability to play files in iTunes seems to anger many consumers, and quite a few mention returning the movies. Said one:

“I called the store and returned this Blu-ray… they have had numerous complaints and returns.”

Warner Bros. downplayed these issues when contacted by me. Studio representatives insisted that the vast majority of consumers had “an absolutely great experience,” with fewer consumers complaining than during previous digital access initiatives. I was also told that the ability to download files to tablets and mobile phones would come soon.

However, consumers will still have to sign up for two separate accounts when first using UltraViolet for the foreseeable future. That’s because UltraViolet set out to bring multiple studios and CE vendors together to allow cross-platform compatibility.

Still, everything will work itself out, according to a spokesperson for DECE, the initiative behind UltraViolet, who told me:

“The development process for creating a breakthrough new media ecosystem, such as UltraViolet, is an ongoing one. DECE is actively involved in overseeing UltraViolet’s gradual rollout driven by individual companies, who are working tirelessly to address consumers’ concerns to ensure the most enjoyable, user-friendly digital home entertainment experience possible.”

This almost convinced me that everything will be just fine. The I went back to Amazon for a quick reality check: Horrible Bosses currently has 36 reviews. 16 of those are complaints about UltraViolet, which has resulted in the movie’s rating dropping down to 2.5 stars. It seems like Warner Bros. and the other participating studios have their work cut out for them if they want to convince consumers that UltraViolet is more than just hot air. And remember: If access to DRM-protected online copies is too difficult, then people may just go back to ripping their DVDs or downloading files from various Torrent sites.

  1. I can’t wait until I can stream my previous iTunes movie purchases to any iOS device and any future movies I buy already get put into my “digital locker”. So much less pain than this crap.

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  2. I’d buy movies from iTunes if they weren’t so darn expensive. What would be perfect is a Blu-ray/iTunes combo where I get a physical disc and a code to download the movie from iTunes as if I purchased it from there (because quality of “Digital Copy” is too laughable to be played in a home theater setup compared to iTunes Store 720p versions.

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  3. Oh man, I totally agree that the Flixster user experience needs a lot of work. Feels more like a public beta without the disclaimer. That said, my brother and I did get our redemptions to work. While he bought Horrible Bosses and I bought Green Lantern, we were able to watch both movies on our iPad. With iTunes we need to share our credentials/account to make that happen.

    In summary, both UV and Flixster need to improve their UI, but I am not writing them off yet due to the poor execution of one retailer/studio. However, if the other studios do not learn from Warner/Flixter, then I feel this may all be for not.

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  4. I bought the Blu-Ray of Green Lantern and downloaded the Digital Copy so I could watch it on a plane… and I couldn’t. The player is extremely CPU intense and the movie skips lots of frames. Impossible to watch. Ultraviolet is useless. What can’t they stick to something like Windows Media Player?
    Makes me want to pirate movies.

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  5. THis ultraviolet and flixster are totally useless and not user friendly. There is no way to resume a paused digital “download” after it stops/hangs and trying to download it wirelessly was totally useless. I was only able to complete my digital “download” when I physically connected my laptop to my modem! If I buy a digital download I want the physical copy on my personal devices especially with the amount they charge for even a “streaming” copy that may not even be available years from now! I also want to use the digital copy I pay for anyway that I want and have all my files in one format! This has been a very irritating purchase and plan never to purchase another download through ultraviolet and flixster!

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  6. SimplyDisgusted! Friday, October 28, 2011

    The worst idea & purchase of a so-called digital copy I have ever used.
    Customer service is horrible. They send emails with useless info that has NOTHING to do with resolving issues.
    It seems they never plan to fix anything.
    I hope they go out of business & scrap this idea or I will never buy digital DVDs again!

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  7. I called Warner Bros. and they knew NOTHING. I have tried for days to get to the point of entering the redemption code, still to no avail. I signed up for both Flixter and UltraViolet, confirmed them, and supposedly linked them (even to my facebook). All that happens after you sign up for UV it goes back for you to create Flixter account – even though you are already signed in to both????

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  8. I hate this. I don’t want to be FORCED to stream movies. My ISP and Wireless companies put a limit on my downloads. Who is the idiot that comes up with these worthless ideas?. I am tired of Hollywood screwing the paying customer. I finally started using itunes and now this? Friggin idiots.

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  9. I have had nothing but bad luck with now 3 of my ultraviolet / flixster movies. I am getting pretty peeved as I am now suddenly paying for product that I essentially cant use. Becides the point that every other digital copy is imported directly into iTunes and now I have to expect that the other half will now be through some third party with 3-4 more accounts to have to deal with. All I can say is terrible business move, as they are about to lose out on my money for the BluRay/DVD/Digital Copy. Sucks for everyone.

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  10. LOATHE effing Flixster. The only reason I bought a particular Blu-Ray combo was because I was promised a digital copy. Digital copies on my iPod touch make time in an airplane bearable. What’s that? If you have no internet connectivity, you’re SOL? GAH! DESTROY THIS TECHNOLOGY OR MAKE THEM LEGITIMATE DIGITAL COPIES!!!!

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