Hollywood Rallies behind UltraViolet for Digital Movie Distribution

ultraviolet wants to revolutionize digital movies logo  july 2010

The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) is getting ready to roll out what it hopes will become a new paradigm for digital movie ownership: UltraViolet. The idea behind UltraViolet is that users will have individual accounts, and any DVDs, Blu-ray discs, or digital movie downloads the user owns will be accessible via the service—on any compatible computer, portable device, set-top box, tablet, or even phone.

“The introduction of the UltraViolet brand is another important step towards the consumer launch of UltraViolet products and services,” said DECE president and Sony Pictures Entertainment CTO Mitch Singer, in a statement (PDF). “Our goal is to firmly establish UltraViolet as the symbol for digital entertainment—one that gives consumers the freedom of access wherever they are, the confidence of knowing how it will work, and the broadest choice of content, stores, and devices.”

DVDs and Blu-ray media would bear UltraViolet logos—to let consumers know the media works with the UltraViolet system—and come with proof-of-purchase tokens. Once those are registered with the UltaViolet service, users would be able to tap into streaming and downloadable versions of the same content. A user’s UltraViolet account will be a cloud-based service, including account management tools as well as a “Digital Rights Locker.” Accounts will be available for free via UltraViolet service providers, or through the UltraViolet Web site.

UltraViolet plans to start with movies and TV shows, but could eventually expand out into other media like music and e-books. UltraViolet has the backing of many movie studios and consumer electronics manufacturers—although some major players are still sitting on the fence. On board: studios Sony, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Lionsgate, and tech companies like LG, Intel, Nokia, Samsung, HP, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic, retailers like Best Buy, as well as movie distributors like Netflix and Comcast. Not on board: Disney and Apple.

For better or worse, that’s about all there is to know about UltraViolet. Except, of course, that it’s coming soon and studios want consumers to be excited about it. Many questions about the UltraViolet service remain unanswered, including whether UltraViolet discs cost more than standard versions of movies, how purchases will be registered with the UltraViolet service, whether old DVDs and Blu-ray discs (or downloads) can be brought into the system, what platforms and devices will be supported, how streaming services will be hosted and distributed, and when the service might launch (licensing details for companies are expected “later this year”). For now, it’s just “wait and see”—and admire the shiny new logo.

[Update: Expanded list of partner/non-partner companies.]