Blog Post

@ CES: Studios Host Pep Rally For UltraViolet

Hollywood held a coming-out party at CES on Thursday for its digital-content initiative, UltraViolet, complete with toasts from distribution executives at four major studios.

Sony (NYSE: SNE) Pictures chief technology officer Mitch Singer, who doubled as chief architect of UltraViolet as head of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, welcomed a packed hall including representatives of the 70-plus companies who are DECE members–as well as many employees of companies who are taking a more wait-and-see approach from the sidelines.

In a frank assessment of the struggles of the electronic-sell through market, he characterized UltraViolet as a second chance to get it right. “Industries all the time have done do-overs and it’s our time, the digital industry, to do a do-over,” said Singer.

A panel discussion followed including execs from Warner Bros. (NYSE: TWX) Sony Pictures, NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) and 20th Century Fox, as well as participating companies Best Buy, Neustar and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT). Assembling everyone on one stage to show their support was clearly intended to send the crucial message that some powerful entities are backing UltraViolet.

Thomas Gewecke, president of digital distribution at Warner Bros., believes that the simplicity UltraViolet aims to bring to the complicated digital business could be just the thing to light a fire under what has been a middling performer to date. “We really think that just that change will fundamentally spur growth in the marketplace,” he said.

“You have to make sure you’ve future-proofed your business,” said Peter Levinsohn, president of new media and digital distribution for Fox Filmed Entertainment.

John Calkins, executive vice president, global digital and commercial innovation for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, noted that UltraViolet will compete for the consumers’ dollars with some of the studios’ other lines of business. “What we’re really seeing with UltraViolet-type of service is the ability to make ownership more convenient, even better than rental or physical ownership,” he said.

JB Perrette, president of digital distribution at NBCU, was given the delicate task of addressing the elephants not in the room, namely the absence of Disney (NYSE: DIS) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) from DECE. But he expressed hope they would join in time because all companies in the space have a mutual interest in growing the digital content business.

Of Disney, which developed its own proprietary technology, known as Keychest, that was considered a rival to UltraViolet, he remarked, “They spent time investing resources in Keychest, but over time they’re not looking to be outliers. They want to scale just like the rest of us.”