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Perhaps impatient with the progress of UltraViolet, Hollywood’s ambitious cloud-based movie-storage plan, two movie studios are launching their own cloud product. Warner Bros. (NYSE: TWX) and Fox (NSDQ: NWS) Tuesday announced “Project Phenix,” which will allow consumers to store and manage their hi-def movie purchases on local devices.
The two studios are partnering with SanDisk (NSDQ: SNDK) and Western Digital to form a new consortium called the Secure Content Storage Association (SCSA). The group’s key initiative, with the working title Project Phenix (without the “O”), will let legal purchasers of 1080p high-definition movie and TV show downloads store and access their files from devices ranging from portable hard drives, USB flash drives and SD cards. Once the content is downloaded onto the storage device, it then can be accessed by any SCSA-enabled player, such as a connected TV, laptop or Blu-ray player.
Both Warner and Fox remain members of the Digital Entertainment Content Echosystem (DECE), the large consortium backing UltraViolet, and they insist their new SCSA initiative — which is currently in beta — is “complimentary” to the cloud-based project. (SandDisk and Western Digital are not DECE members.)
According to Envisioneering Group analyst Richard Doherty, the emergence of SCSA and Project Phenix shouldn’t be seen as two key DECE studios necessarily giving up on UltraViolet. But with UltraViolet enlisting only 1 million users since its October launch and unable to establish a significant retail partnership, it does show that Fox and Warner are anxious to find something that will entice and enable consumers to legally purchase digital movies, rather than merely rent and stream them on Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) or — worse — watch them via an illegal torrent provider.
“Developing solutions that will allow consumers to easily access and store true HD digital content is a critical component supporting digital media and entertainment consumption,” said Darcy Antonellis, president, Warner Bros. Technical Operations, in a statement.
Trying to achieve this goal through the four member SCSA group — rather than the sprawling mass of studios, consumer electronics makers, technologists and retailers that make up DECE — might prove easier. The sheer size of DECE’s membership body — and the time it took to coalesce agreements within it — is one of the reasons why UltraViolet took so long to get to the market. “A lot of people felt like (UltraViolet) should have happened in 2010,” Doherty said.
For their part, DECE officials are reportedly in negotiations with Wal-Mart to become the key retail partner needed to better merchandise and evangelize UltraViolet. “Everybody wants to see (UltraViolet) move quicker, but it’s still going to take another year … if it has another year,” Doherty said.