New UltraViolet Digital Copies Annoying Some Customers
October 29, 2011

Green Lantern was the second home video release to carry the UltraViolet cloud-based authentication system for providing digital copies across devices. (Horrible Bosses is the first; both came out the same week, but HB was on Tuesday and GL on Friday.) When I tried UltraViolet, I first had a complete failure, but once my Flixster account was reset, I found the process smooth and easy (aside from having to install yet another application and set up yet another username and password).

My experience hasn’t been shared, with various complaints at that link and in the comments to my review. Many people are upset that they can’t continue using iTunes, since Apple isn’t part of the consortium behind UV. (You can use an iPod or iPad if you go through the Flixster app, apparently. Other major names not participating: Disney and Amazon.) Other users have issues in creating or connecting the two accounts required: Flixster (bought by Warner last May) and UltraViolet, with some technical support of one blaming the other and leaving the customer in limbo.

Currently, only Warner supports the UV system, although Sony will debut its use with the release of The Smurfs on December 2. AP coverage points out that the launch

had a soft start… as Warner Bros. released Horrible Bosses without many of the hoped-for partnerships in place. Several movie studios had intended to launch the UltraViolet system with an array of retailers and gadget makers to form an interconnected web of shared commerce. … In reality, a back-end system to allow such seamless viewing across devices hasn’t been created. The early version of UltraViolet lives inside a walled garden that is owned entirely by one movie studio — in this case, Warner Bros.

Unless you’re very handy with your laptop, there’s no easy way to watch these digital copies on TVs yet — no set-top boxes or game systems support UV — but since the codes are still tied to the purchase of physical media, that’s not a huge hurdle. But as the AP article points out,

So far, studios have had trouble forging partnerships with cable TV operators, online retailers, and other companies that serve up digital movie copies. One problem is that potential partners might have to bear the expense of streaming films to customers without getting the revenue from the initial sale.

Warner is making the codes available on any DVD or Blu-ray purchase going forward, with the plan, eventually, being to skip the need for the plastic discs and just sell UV codes to grant customers access to films. No word yet as to whether that means getting rid of the extras (commentaries, featurettes) that make purchases attractive to buyers like me.

UltraViolet logo

Another downside for consumers: time limitation. The small print on the GL copy I have says that UV access is good for three years. After that point, who knows what happens — the virtual movie just disappears from my “library”?

In the bigger picture, purchases of physical media (such as Blu-ray) are declining. Digital download sales are increasing, but their market increase is only 10% of the physical drop. Customers are believed to be rejecting the idea that you have to rebuy your content on a new system or device, wanting the interoperability that UltraViolet aims to provide.

However, it appears that there’s already a major problem with the system from the studio perspective. A market in selling UltraViolet codes sprang up quickly, with access going for as little as 99 cents. That’s about the same price to rent from Redbox. From a consumer perspective, viewing a movie should cost about a dollar; from a studio perspective, that’s much too devalued, when they sell they own download copies for $15 and the Blu-rays for $35-40.

174 Responses  
D Nguyen writes:  

Hi everyone,

Just so to throw everyone a curve ball … UV has been going to the UK and starting in Canada. So, you will see more and more of them in all packages. I’m hoping they are still digital copy from Itunes because I will definitely stay away from UV.

What I like is some studio decides to package in their combo both digital copy+UV along with Bluray and DVD. That is definitely a plus for me.

John D'Ambrosia writes:  

This i the worst application i have ever seen. I have bought two movies (HP – Deathly Hallow Pt 2, Batman) and both have been difficult to download. Still trying to get Batman to download (2 1/2 hours of being told “Processing” WTF??) Please either fix your problems or go away and let’s go back to ITunes, which i never had a problem with downloading. And go to their website and try to find where to support?????

Will writes:  

I got the dato knight on dvd with uv copy, put uv copy on pc and tried to play it on android. unable to play movie on this device due to security reasons. PKEASE HELP!

Johanna writes:  

There’s a Flixster Android FAQ here:
If your device is rooted, it won’t work. Or if you’re using one of the devices in this list:
it won’t work.

Craig writes:  

Was talked into buying one 3D DVD that came with UV and will never do it again. Simply a ridiculous thing these couple studios have tried to pull. I will only purchase Bluray and 3D product that includes a digital copy that is iTunes compatible. I have contacted every studio that I have seen something I wanted that came ultraviolet copy only.

It isn’t even an Apple thing it is the reality that exponentially more portable devices – phones – tablets are designed for it and already using a system that works and does not demand using bandwidth every time you want something.

Simply have a zero tolerance and if more people simply stick to their guns and tell studios and vendors why you won’t buy Ultraviolet product only the sooner the solo UV product will disappear.

Alyssa writes:  

Trying to load up a few UV movies I purchased and this is a joke. Signing up for two new online accounts, having to install Silverlight, slow & glitchy downloads… Next time I see a UV logo on a DVD it’ll be a big turn off, and I will no longer purchase an upgraded edition with a UV digital copy — only the ones with digital copy discs or alternative download methods. If UV is the only offerred digital copy for a movie I want, I’ll just buy the DVD and rip it — I have no shame in doing that if I paid for the DVD and am being forced by the studios to use this ridiculous service.

Kevin writes:  


1000000% agree, this is so stupid!!

Zoe writes:  

The Problem i had was that, i had to make an account, fair enough, but when it came down to the download part it said i couldn’t, i don’t even know why, no reasons or anything. slightly disappointing really.

Mark writes:  

Completely agree with all the above, I just want to get the digital copy onto itunes so I can play it on my phone, teb or computer when there is no WiFi… UV is a big turn of and a useless feature, bring back the more traditional digital copy. I am not going to sign up to yet another two sites and remember another password, it is the last thing I want to do.

Ralf Haring writes:  

I just halfheartedly tried to create an account to download one, despite feeling dirty by even entertaining the notion. So if I understand it correctly you have to create two different accounts (an ultraviolet one and a flixster one), register all your devices with them, download the actual movie, and then download some special software to play the movie? Right. It was at the point of realizing that they required their own custom media player that I tuned out completely. No thanks.

Arron Clements writes:  

This article is disingenuous, Blu-Ray sales are increasing and much faster than digital. Frankly digital downloads for movies don’t make sense in the same way it did for music, physical isn’t going anywhere at all. You can’t lend, wrap or resell a download. The picture quality is poor and I don’t need the portability that I did with music.

Seriously, its a pipe dream.

Sal writes:  

I personally like having the digital copy of movies. But I like the way it’s been until now where they download into iTunes. This way when I’m at home, I can enjoy the movies on my Apple TV while still having the physical copy. So now I just bought Pacific Rim expecting the same thing and now I’m expected to use another service that isn’t compatible with my Apple TV. I don’t think so. This system is garbage and unnecessary. Not to mention I feel like I’m being treated like a thief or prospective thief for actually supporting their product. I’m sorry, but I find this Digital Ultraviolet offensive and will not be buying any more blu-rey movies that show its logo. I feel cheated now. If there had been a proper label stating that this movie isn’t compatible with iTunes, I never would have bought it this way. I would have opted to get it on iTunes instead. Now I’m stuck with a “digital copy” that’s totally useless to me.

Craig writes:  

I have been notifying companies that I will not be purchasing their product while they are UV only. Warner Bros is one of the biggest culprits of this system that simply does not provide the service of iTunes and is literally useless outside a big city area of North America and some larger markets of Europe and Japan. Without really good high speed connections it is useless.

My partner is working in Manila currently and with out the ability to take things on a drive and leave new items downloading for literally for a night (a hiccup in service will kill a UV download to start again as well) you cannot watch something and this is in an area that has the best infrastructure available there. While UV might seem fine if you live in big city USA just don’t ever try and travel with it.

I might want to buy the Bluray 3D of Pacific Rim but I refuse to spend money on a companies product that refuses to meet my needs.

Ellidar writes:  

Just bought Man of Steel and didn’t realize it was a useless UltraViolet digital copy. Was going to get the new extended version of The Hobbit but noticed it was the same so I will pass on that purchase. The real annoying thing is that you can buy these movies through iTunes, Them giving me an UltraViolet copy doesn’t gain them anything and it pisses me off.

Ralf Haring writes:  

One recent tactic I noticed is that a movie included the option of using the digital code with either Ultraviolet or iTunes … but … the copy downloaded from iTunes was SD. Contacting support about yielded the “answer” that if the customer wanted HD they could just use UV.

Johanna writes:  

Was that a Universal movie? They’re the ones I see most often offering both formats. I hadn’t noticed the SD/HD discrepancy, but since digitally I prefer the smaller file sizes, it wouldn’t bother me.

Ralf Haring writes:  

No, it was Fox. The movie was Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

Johanna writes:  

Oh, good to know that there’s more than one providing the choice. Thanks.

Ralf Haring writes:  

I’m not sure. That one was from 2012 and more recent releases are branded as including DigitalHD copies, whatever that is.

Duc writes:  

Just a suggestion. Most paramount and universal comes with duo copy. If you want to get itunes in HD, make sure you check the box in purchased page to “download HD if available” then the movie will go and wrap the HD version of the movie in Itunes. This only works for movies that don’t come with a physical disc. Now, if you want to wrap the SD version after you can always do so. I happen to still run Vista and that doesn’t support most of the new HD movies but I can still wrap those and save them for future use with Win 7.

Gordon writes:  

It’s better to strip the security features right off the DVD and start fresh! You own the DVD, it’s yours to do with it as you please. The royalties have already been paid as soon as you bought the DVD. Don’t fall for that big company malarkey about doing your own digital copies, that’s just extortion.

Jill writes:  

I miss the 90s when there where big box stores like FYE, Suncoast Video, etc.. I miss buying CDs and DVDs from there. But overall, I prefer the physical for life. I grew up in the 80s when everything hit, CDs, DVDs, Nintendo, Sega, LaserDiscs, etc.. I prefer owning stuff then digital. Sometimes downloads take forever, and many people had problems with Wifi connections and ethernet connections. I will NOT wait 3-4 hours for to download a movie after rebought. I enjoy owning a Blu-Ray player with tons of movies better then DVD and they last longer.. I like CDs because sometimes Itunes does not carry the artwork for the albums I buy. It is also cheaper to buy media NOW then 10 years ago! So look at prices and shop around!

Disney Finally Announces an UltraViolet Alternative » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] has been the biggest holdout from participating in UltraViolet, the movie studio digital copy system. UltraViolet isn’t available on iTunes — from […]

Wani writes:  

I guess I’m the only one here loving the UV thing. With more studios climbing onboard I have a huge UV library. My only problem is Paramount’s older titles with the PC or iTunes only downloads (I don’t buy Apple products). I linked my kids Disney.com movies and my vudu.com accounts to it and i love it!


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