Blog Post

Hollywood’s UltraViolet offers an alternative to iTunes

Apple’s iTunes store continues to be the main way consumers buy movies online. (s AAPL) Even with increasing competition from the likes of Amazon, (s AMZN) Vudu (s WMT) and others, iTunes still reigns supreme as the top digital storefront when it comes to renting and purchasing movies online. But that might soon change, as the three-year-old UltraViolet initiative is finally coming to market with a product that will let users purchase a piece of content and watch it across a number of devices, and even online video services.

With the release of Horrible Bosses from Warner Home Entertainment (s twx) on Tuesday, viewers will be able take ownership of a digital title across multiple devices without having to transfer huge files. And soon, they will be able to stream the movie from a number of different digital storefronts, or they will be able to download the file to a mobile phone or tablet to take it on the go.

Of course, viewers who live within the Apple ecosystem — those with iPhones and iPads, Apple TVs and an iTunes account — have been able to do most of this already. According to the latest numbers from IHS iSuppli(s ihs), iTunes had nearly two-thirds of the online movie market in the first half of this year. And with Apple’s iCloud launch imminent, the company will make accessing and transferring movie files even easier.

But iTunes doesn’t play well with non-Apple devices. That means that if you have an Android tablet, you won’t be able to take your movie on the go. And if you don’t have an Apple TV set-top box, forget about watching an iTunes movie on the big screen.

UltraViolet is Hollywood’s first real effort at breaking the Apple stranglehold. The idea is that by implementing a digital rights locker, the studios involved (basically all the majors except Disney) (s DIS) will enable viewers to purchase a piece of content once and watch it on potentially any device with a web connection. In essence, consumers will be able to store their purchases in the cloud and access them from anywhere.

Sounds good in theory, but in practice the initial launch is a bit lacking. For the Horrible Bosses release, Warner Bros. has teed up availability on mobile devices through its Flixster apps, but no other applications or digital stores are on board — yet. Hopefully that will change when other partners, like Vudu, come on board and enable viewing across other devices, like connected TVs.

As a first-time user, you’ll need to create a Flixster account, open an UltraViolet account and link it to Flixster, and enter a 12-digit redemption code from the Blu-ray disc to gain digital access. It’s a five-step process, but the good news is that once those accounts are set up, you won’t have to enter that information again.

Finally, there’s the physical media aspect of the launch. Today, the only way to score an UltraViolet-enabled digital copy of a movie like Horrible Bosses is to buy a physical DVD or Blu-ray disc. That’s because currently, there aren’t any digital-only storefronts available. Again, Vudu and digital stores like Best Buy’s CinemaNow (s BBY) are soon expected to offer their own UltraViolet-enabled products, but in the meantime requiring a DVD or Blu-ray purchase to gain digital access seems a bit counterintuitive.

Hopefully, the rolling launch of UltraViolet partners and capabilities will fulfill the promise of the initiative’s charter. In the meantime, however, it seems unlikely that UltraViolet will make much headway in combatting Apple’s digital dominance.

19 Responses to “Hollywood’s UltraViolet offers an alternative to iTunes”

  1. Honestly if they don’t fix the problem I’m having (and a lot of other people seem to be having the same issue) which is Flixster/UltraViolet seems to only work with wi-fi — in my opinion it is doomed to fail. If I’d known it was going to demand a wi-fi connection to watch my movie I’d just purchased it from iTunes.

  2. Panda5305

    I really HATE this new UV! I watch my digital copies via my apple TV when i am home. UV does not work with apple TV. Why would i want to watch a movie on a tablet when I have my 60″ screen in front of me? I usually only watch my movies on my iPad when i am traveling. No wifi connection = no movie. This is the dumbest thing i have ever seen. It was much more simple to either download it to you PC or iTunes. I bought HP7p2 with this stupid UV digital copy. Wont buy another one it took forever to set up and then to only find out you can watch it only with an internet connection. VERY misleading. They really should have ironed out all the bugs before this mess.

  3. Jason Barton

    I really dislike UltraViolet. Now I have another app that will contain some, but not all of my movies, and those movies are only available to me on a mobile device or computer that has net access at the time. I have five kids, most weekends we buy a movie and spend Friday night having a pizza and movie night. The blu-ray with digital copy was the perfect balance of content access rights for us. We got the blu-ray in high def, the digital copy we could load into iTunes. My kids could watch the movies on the Apple TV, or on a pc through iTunes. If we were traveling, they could sync and go with my iPad, no net access required. We did not buy the Green Lantern blu-ray last weekend because the digital copy was UltraViolet, I have no interest in yet another video library application, especially one thats less useful. We did buy GL through iTunes, however it was not available in high def, annoying.

    Ultraviolet is Netflix for the movies I already own (in poor quality). I will no longer be buying blu-rays if the digital copy is UltraViolet.

  4. ultraviolet is a total scam. absolutely hate it. the beauty of having a digital copy on my ipod is i dont have to b anywhere near a wifi zone. if i wanted it the way “ultraviolet” wants us to i’d have just stole it off of bittorrent. thanks for nothing

  5. John Wayne

    This is not what i paid for. I got a digital copy so I could down load it to my Ipod and watch it when I dont have the internet, like when we are hauling the kids across country on a vacation. It will not even stream to Ipod in our house thru the wifi. I will try and take it back to store tomorrow, not what I paid for. Package misleading

  6. This is a rip off!! You have to sign up for two different accounts (ultra violet and flixster), then, you can’t stream your movies offline.. you HAVE to be connected to wifi if you want to watch your movie on the go. This is a total waste of time and money. I thought I found a solution with ultra violet when I saw the option to download the digital copy to my PC…. but the files will not open in ANY media player I have to watch offline. When I looked closer, the size is 0 bytes. Again, RIP OFF. Do not waster your time or your money.

  7. It doesn’t work, down loaded the movie, watched it on my iPad, then the next day it was gone. When we tried to reload it, it says the number was already used. Don’t know how to fix it? I like iTunes better

  8. Patrick Houghton

    when is this gonna work on apple tv or roku… i have both and want to be able to watch these on my tv not just on my ipod…i hope they add support to one of them by the time harry potter atdhp2 comes out

  9. I just bought Green Lantern and this is a total mess! 2 different applications and Internet services to JOIN (UVVU and Flixster) and then it downloads a file that I can only use in Flixster. I will not buy another Digital Copy that says it uses UltraViolent :-) (yes spelling intended).

  10. Jonathan

    The problem is that if you want to have a physical copy downloaded to your phone, it doesnt work. At least it doesnt work yet. If I wanted to watch the movie when Im on a plane or something I cant, but if I had a normal digital copy, I would be able to. I would at least like the option to have both the actual file I can put on my phone as well as the streaming movie.

  11. Personally, I prefer not having some two-bit thrown together application stream video that will be obsolete in less than 4 months try to stream my digital content to me. By keeping the movie “in the cloud” access to that content is limtied to where and when they want to give it to me and, as an untested application – my digital purchase my simply be money that I am throwing away to a lost cause – I assure you there are no guarantees that your digital rights are going to be there in three years – at least with Apple you have the strength of the company to rely on. Frankly, I bought Horrible Bosses for the digital copy – my mistake – if anything it taught me to pay more attention so that I can make sure I avoid such future purchases.

  12. Mark Lloyd

    I hate this. I bought Horrible Bosses with digital copy expecting to type the redeem code into my iTunes.. But it took all day to make the copy.. I emailed company and never got a response.. I totally hate this.. Bring back the iTunes digital copy. Tis was so miss leading the package looked the same as ones I purchased last week with digital copy..

  13. i love the idea of a digital locker in addition to physical media. watch BD and DVD when i’m offline or want the best quality, and streaming from the cloud when it’s convenient. it’s a better solution than digital downloads.

  14. “And with Apple’s iCloud launch imminent, the company will make accessing and transferring movie files even easier.”

    Maybe I missed something, however, I am not sure where Apple announced this… Just music for now.

  15. mSpot Movies has already announced a solution for progressive downloads (initially for Lenovo tablets). This effectively does the same thing as you can start watching while the dowload is happening, and finish watching offline. mSpot Movies works across Android and IOS devices; start watching on one device, finish on another. Disclosure: I work with mSpot.

  16. jaws3dfan

    According to another article:

    “Basically, users will be able to stream the content as much as they would like for five years.”

    Only 5 years?? Forget it, it’s doomed to fail, why are they company’s so stupid?

  17. Jeff Kibuule

    Hopefully it succeeds. I don’t buy any digital content from iTunes because I find it silly to be locked into Apple devices. I’ve got an HTPC setup and I am NOT going to launch iTunes to watch a movie. That’s silly.