We’ve written several articles during the past year about the rise of the UltraViolet format. Since it went live in November 2011, there have been a lot of questions about the format such as:
- How will the online, cloud-based “storage locker” work for watching movies?
- Can movie studios, content producers, and hardware manufacturers work together to build a successful platform?
- Will consumers find the format easy to use and worth paying for?
- Does UltraViolet have the potential to become a serious competitor to Apple’s iTunes monopoly on premium, downloadable content?
On January 10th, the group backing UltraViolet held a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that aimed to answer many of these questions. Chairman of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) Mark Teitell was the main speaker at the conference.
During the event, he announced that UltraViolet has an active userbase of 750,000 accounts nationwide. These figures are very healthy for a format that is barely three months old.
Mr. Teitell explained that the UltraViolet format is aimed at giving consumers the greatest freedom when watching their entertainment. The idea of “Buy once, play anywhere” means that a movie can be purchased online, on DVD, or on a Blu-ray disc and watched on multiple devices including TVs, laptops, phones, tablets, and other devices.
To accomplish this, UltraViolet will use the Flixster website it acquired last year as the platform for online and mobile streaming of purchased movies.
In order for UltraViolet to be a commercial success, it will require the cooperation of content producers, content distributors, and manufacturers. So far, the UltraViolet Alliance has over 70 member companies including major movie studios, delivery networks, and tech hardware giants.
One of the key points of the press conference was that UltraViolet has recently gained the support of Samsung and Panasonic regarding UV-integration on upcoming Blu-ray and DVD player hardware. Based on this announcement, it is likely that other manufacturers will soon add support for their players as well.
At the CES press conference, it was announced that online megastore Amazon.com has signed an exclusive partnership with an as-yet-unnamed major movie studio to deliver UltraViolet enabled content to consumers. This gives the UV format an even bigger foothold in the industry.
It also answers the question of whether UltraViolet will be easy enough for consumers to use. If Amazon is willing to back the technology, it has a high chance of succeeding.
Finally, we come to the question of whether UltraViolet stands a chance against the 800 pound gorilla of the industry, Apple’s iTunes Store. With billions of song and movie downloads already racked up, will UltraViolet be able to lure customers away from iTunes?
I believe that both online marketplaces can coexist. Since iTunes is primarily music-focused and UltraViolet is movie-focused, they meet different consumer needs.
With that in mind, we can look for some major changes for UltraViolet in 2012 including greater spending on advertising to increase consumer awareness, UV-supported players from Samsung and Panasonic, and of course, lots of new releases.