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Flixster hands out iTunes codes to unhappy UltraViolet users

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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 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…

24 Responses to “Flixster hands out iTunes codes to unhappy UltraViolet users”

  1. I complained, politely, and received a code after giving the customer support people my original redemption code. Ultraviolet and Flixster are poorly designed crappy programs, it took over an hour just to deal with my “yr account hasn’t been verified” b.s. But thru all the annoyances the customer support was helpful and quick to answer my issues… at least

  2. To WB, Ultraviolet & Flixter. I’ve been reading about all of the negative posts & blogs on the fact that the digital copy doesn’t work on iTunes. I downloaded Flixter and after 7 attempts to download the movie over a two day period I was deeply disappointed that my digital copy was useless. I have made three attempts to contact someone in WB, Ultraviolet & Flixter and still I haven’t heard back from anyone. Can someone please get back to me with a redemption code that I can use on iTunes?

  3. Phenix Black

    UltraVioletjust plain out SUCKS… had a hard time with Green Lantern and just bought The Hangover 2 and cannot redeem my digital copy code because my account is not activated??? Went through all the steps again and still nothing… this frickin’ stinks!!!

  4. Brandon Dalton

    Problem with the current digital copy was it wouldn’t work with android since drm doesn’t work with it. And since itunes is crap and wont allow u to put the itunes on a android device your stuck. I have harry potter part 2 on ultraviolet and i dont have any problems at all. This is the answer ive been looking for. If they have a marketplace for movies i’ll buy digital copies. Nice to know a company cares about the consumer. I would push for all the movie studios to man up and force itunes to play ball. Thats my opinion

    • You do realize that it’s the studios that won’t “play ball” on the whole DRM thing, right? It’s the same fight Apple had with the record labels for years before they were allowed to drop DRM from music.

    • Traditional digital copies worked in iTunes AND Windows Media Player (code only works once, so choose). The WMP copy was originally for the Zune, but *might* work for your Android.

  5. Pissed Off

    Not only does this Ultraviolet concept reek, when I went to register a complaint, the system told me that my address was not valid. It’s almost like they declared war on the maker of the most prolific devices.

  6. I submitted an email through the support link above and got an iTunes code in less than five minutes. A few points: The movie list is approximately 8 movies. Why did they bother doing this if they are starting with such a limited library. That’s stupid. I understand the drive, they’re trying to get back the 30% cut that apple is taking, but sorry, the store/ecosystem war is over. The only other contenders are amazon and netflix. Finally, thanks to the flixster folks for getting me an iTunes redemption. I’d still be pissed off about it, if not for that. The weird thing is that the last movie allowed a direct iTunes redemption and they pulled this switch on the last movie? For a new series maybe, but not the last in an 8 series movie… *sigh*

  7. Brian Knighten

    This Ultraviolet, Flixter thing is bullshit! I can’t play one digital copy I have purchased! I am sick of spending my hard earned money on things, and I can’t even use them! I have the Green Lantern movie on an account and now I can’t even get the account come up on my phone, & when it would come up I couldn’t even play it! Tell me what good it is? I now have the new Harry Potter, & I can’t even redeem it!

  8. You get one chance to rollout a service like this, especially when it’s already positioned against a giant like iTunes. So I pretty much say Ultravoilet is dead already.

    Which then leaves people in the same old situation of what happens to my purchase, if the service is closed?

  9. I got my iTunes code, and am happy Warner Bros. at least attempted to address customer concerns.

    However, the thing about UltraViolet is that it’s the digital equivalent of the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray format wars consumers hated, except that the studios are trying to introduce the competing format (UltraViolet) AFTER there’s a clear leader (iTunes).

    I personally have nearly 200 movies stored in iTunes and all my backups, syncs, TV streaming and “Home Sharing” is set up to use Apple’s format.

    UltraViolet isn’t even compatible with most of my home ecosystem and methods of use, and I have ZERO desire to have to go more than one place to manage my digital copies anyway.

    I wouldn’t mind digital copies being offered in more than one format, but attempting to SWITCH formats on me is a deal killer.