Consumers are buying more digital video than ever before, but trying to watch across platforms continues to be a huge headache. A large coalition of companies, including most of the major movie studios, think they have the solution: a system called UltraViolet, that will allow consumers to purchase movies and other content with the ability to view it across platforms.
Today UltraViolet launched its licensing program, which will allow companies that partner with it to start building services and apps that use the UltraViolet logo and interact with the service. The service, which was kicked off at CES in January, is still on schedule to hit the market in fall of this year. The program was in development for more than two years before it was kicked off at CES this year.
Essentially, UltraViolet is a cloud-based service that allows consumers to view their content across devices. In other words, a digital movie purchase could be watched on a big-screen TV, on a laptop computer, and on a laptop. Up to six family members will be able to use the same UltraViolet account.
The effort is being led by a group called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a group of more than 70 companies that includes movie studios, distribution platforms like Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), and tech companies.
The consortium has added eight new members this year, including two big distributors of digital video–Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), which owns the Vudu video service. There are still a few companies that are big in digital video that are notably absent from DECE’s list of partners–notably Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN). On the content side, DECE’s coalition includes all of the six major movie studios except for Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS), as well as the RIAA, which represents the major music labels.
A few big questions remain about UltraViolet, The system is focused on consumers who want to buy and own digital content, and it’s not at all clear that the future of digital video will primarily be an ownership, as opposed to subscription-based or rental services.
Interoperability is the most critical challenge for the digital ecosystem to overcome, and there’s a lot riding on UltraViolet. If the big studios and their partners can’t provide a system for viewing content across platforms that’s simple and relatively inexpensive, digital piracy may continue to “solve” the interoperability problem for them.