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Summary:

How bad are things for Hollywood’s UltraViolet initiative right now? So bad that Warner Bros., the studio behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, is giving away coupon codes for the movie to Apple’s iTunes store to placate unhappy customers.

harry potter

How bad are things for Hollywood’s UltraViolet initiative right now? So bad that Warner Bros., the studio behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, is giving away coupon codes for the movie to Apple’s iTunes store to placate unhappy customers.

UltraViolet was meant to improve the user experience for movie buyers, by allowing them to purchase a title once and watch it on multiple devices afterward. But the initial implementation of UltraViolet, which relies on Warner Bros.’ Flixster app to stream and download movies online that consumers bought in Blu-ray or DVD format, has been getting panned in customer reviews.

We’ve already covered customer dissatisfaction with the Flixster app in the first two UltraViolet releases, Horrible Bosses and The Green Lantern, and that dissatisfaction continues with the latest Harry Potter title. Of the more than 400 reviews for the Blu-ray version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 on Amazon, more than half are 1-star reviews, and most of those are focused on the poor user experience for UltraViolet. That’s bad news for Warner Bros., which was hoping that a major franchise like Harry Potter could help introduce even more new users to the UltraViolet digital format.

It’s such bad news, in fact, that Flixster has sought to appease unhappy users by offering them the ability to download the movie for free from Apple’s iTunes instead. As pointed out by BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield, Flixster has begun issuing iTunes coupon codes to users who issue complaints at support.ultraviolet.flixster.com. Multiple reviewers claim to have gotten access to the iTunes version of the Harry Potter film, and Greenfield even got Flixster to comp him a copy without providing an actual UltraViolet code to prove he had purchased the film.

Before the launch of UltraViolet, iTunes was a popular way for some studios to offer a digital copy of a film to consumers when they purchased a physical copy of the disc. But since Flixster is the first application to officially support UltraViolet, that’s where the studios are placing their bets. To some, UltraViolet was even seen as an alternative to iTunes, which today holds about half of all digital movie sales online.

To further complicate matters, Apple and iTunes are not part of the DECE UltraViolet consortium. In fact, Apple and partner Disney are putting their efforts behind an alternative to UltraViolet called KeyChest.

For those reasons, it seems unlikely that sending dissatisfied is a long-term solution to UltraViolet’s ills. And for studios looking to tout the advantages of their new digital movie format, pushing users to iTunes seems ill-advised. Then again, if you can’t beat ‘em…

  1. I got my iTunes code, and am happy Warner Bros. at least attempted to address customer concerns.

    However, the thing about UltraViolet is that it’s the digital equivalent of the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray format wars consumers hated, except that the studios are trying to introduce the competing format (UltraViolet) AFTER there’s a clear leader (iTunes).

    I personally have nearly 200 movies stored in iTunes and all my backups, syncs, TV streaming and “Home Sharing” is set up to use Apple’s format.

    UltraViolet isn’t even compatible with most of my home ecosystem and methods of use, and I have ZERO desire to have to go more than one place to manage my digital copies anyway.

    I wouldn’t mind digital copies being offered in more than one format, but attempting to SWITCH formats on me is a deal killer.

    1. how do u get the coupon?

    2. were do u go to get the itunes code my little girl is upset she cant but her movies on her ipod

  2. You get one chance to rollout a service like this, especially when it’s already positioned against a giant like iTunes. So I pretty much say Ultravoilet is dead already.

    Which then leaves people in the same old situation of what happens to my purchase, if the service is closed?

  3. Flixster hands out iTunes codes for unhappy UltraViolet users http://t.co/6OCs1ut1

  4. Flixster hands out iTunes codes to unhappy UltraViolet users — Online Video News http://t.co/Pi77Lmow

  5. Plinkers (R. DROSNE) Friday, November 18, 2011

    RT @gip89: Flixster hands out iTunes codes to unhappy UltraViolet users — Online Video News http://t.co/Pi77Lmow

  6. Newsflash: UltraViolet users pissed. Are we surprised yet another attempt at DRM has shitty user experience? http://t.co/igUqScaC

  7. Josh Stevenson Friday, November 18, 2011

    @maccast complain loud enough and you’ll get an iTunes copy http://t.co/yUu7arhM

  8. Brian Knighten Friday, November 18, 2011

    This Ultraviolet, Flixter thing is bullshit! I can’t play one digital copy I have purchased! I am sick of spending my hard earned money on things, and I can’t even use them! I have the Green Lantern movie on an account and now I can’t even get the account come up on my phone, & when it would come up I couldn’t even play it! Tell me what good it is? I now have the new Harry Potter, & I can’t even redeem it!

  9. Quoc-Huy Nguyen Dinh Saturday, November 19, 2011

    How bad is that? UltraViolet, supposed to compete with iTunes, has to give iTunes coupon to angry clients! http://t.co/WnjB4fav

  10. I submitted an email through the support link above and got an iTunes code in less than five minutes. A few points: The movie list is approximately 8 movies. Why did they bother doing this if they are starting with such a limited library. That’s stupid. I understand the drive, they’re trying to get back the 30% cut that apple is taking, but sorry, the store/ecosystem war is over. The only other contenders are amazon and netflix. Finally, thanks to the flixster folks for getting me an iTunes redemption. I’d still be pissed off about it, if not for that. The weird thing is that the last movie allowed a direct iTunes redemption and they pulled this switch on the last movie? For a new series maybe, but not the last in an 8 series movie… *sigh*

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