It has taken three years, but the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) has finally completed all the backend work needed to roll out services based on its UltraViolet initiative. With the heavy lifting done, now Hollywood needs to work on spreading the word to consumers about what UltraViolet is, how it works and most importantly, why they will want to buy movies again.
Unlike today’s digital media ecosystem, where purchasing a movie generally means you only have access to it in one file format, one device or one service, UltraViolet was built to enable consumers to buy a movie once and have access to it anytime and anywhere. That means consumers will have their choice of watching a movie on a Blu-ray disc, streaming it to a connected TV or even downloading a file and saving it to watch later on a mobile device.
Thanks to the DECE’s standardization of a common file format and the creation of a new “digital rights locker,” consumers will also be able to buy a movie from one digital service or retail location and then watch it across any number of digital storefronts. So, for instance, consumers should be able to buy a movie from Best Buy’s CinemaNow service and watch it on Walmart’s Vudu-connected devices.
In addition to the technology problems the consortium has sorted out, the DECE has also worked to sort out some of the legal and business rules associated with sharing a piece of content across multiple devices and streaming services. UltraViolet GM Mark Teitell said in a phone interview that the technology part was easy, compared to sorting through some of the business issues.
Now that the technology and business rules are in place, and UltraViolet can be licensed to studio and retail partners, it will be up to them to actually create services that hook into the consortium’s digital rights locker, which is powered by NeuStar. But Teitell said there are companies working on beta programs now and services based on the initiative should be available this fall.
While the technology should make owning digital video easier, companies that want to take advantage of UltraViolet still have a lot of work ahead of them. Purchases of Blu-ray discs are growing, but not quickly enough to make up for lost DVD revenues, and digital isn’t filling the gap quite yet. Given the growth of video-on-demand (VOD) services like iTunes and Vudu, as well as subscriber gains by subscription VOD services like Netflix, there’s some evidence to suggest the decline in disc sales isn’t just a move to digital media instead of physical media, but a movement toward a rental model instead of an ownership model for video.