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How bad are things for Hollywood’s UltraViolet initiative right now? So bad that Warner Bros., (s TWX) the studio behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, is giving away coupon codes for the movie to Apple’s iTunes store (s AAPL) 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, (s AMZN) 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 (s DIS) 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…