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UltraViolet rolls out

11 January 2011
UltraViolet rolls out

The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) is to begin deployment of the digital rights standard UltraViolet in the US from mid-2011 and into the UK from late-2011, writes Adrian Pennington.

BSkyB has signed as up to the initiative and is taking a watching brief on developments before possible implementation into its set top boxes.

The DECE consortia comprises all the Hollywood majors apart from Disney and most major CE and PC manufacturers with the notable exception of Apple. Ultraviolet is the consumer brand name for the standards based system that is indented to energise the market for digital film and TV content.

Thomas Geweke, president, Digital Distribution, Warner Bros said he was excited about UV deployment because it would fundamentally improve the product for the customer.

“We need electronic sell through to be better. We want to make it very simple so that when a consumer buys a movie they don’t have to worry about the hard drive failing or worry that it won’t always be delivered. With UV we will eventually, and it could take a decade, remove the attachment from a physical copy and then from a home-stored file to something that resides in the cloud that the consumer feels confident that they will own.”

The announcement made this week signifies a hand-off of UltraViolet from the development stage to the business and consumer rollout phase.

DECE has released an evaluation suite of technical specifications, which includes a common file format and technical design specifications. The UltraViolet licensing programme will allow companies to use the technical specifications, interact with the UltraViolet Account infrastructure and use the UltraViolet logo for promotion and marketing. DECE intends to make the file format widely available for use in other areas of video content preparation and delivery.

The newest member companies are: Akamai Technologies, ARRIS, Arxan Technologies, BSkyB, Dell, Fanhattan, Fujitsu and QuickPlay Media.

Initially, UltraViolet retailers will enable consumers to use downloaded copies on many devices they already own. Initial streaming services will allow consumers to access their UltraViolet collections via websites or linked devices. Later in 2011, UltraViolet-optimised media player apps will begin to roll out via software updates to PCs, game consoles and smart mobile devices that consumers already own, as well as on new devices for sale. In early 2012, the first designed-for-UltraViolet CE devices are expected to become available.

Asked whether the two missing gorillas in the room – Apple and Disney – would impact the prospects for UV, a panel comprising executives from Sony, Warner Bros., Fox and NBC Universal as well as Microsoft, BestBuy and Samsung were unsurprisingly unanimous in saying that it would not.

“The hardware side of Apple’s business will be no impediment to UV becoming a service,” said JB Perrette, president, Digital & Affiliate Distribution, NBC Universal. “There is no issue making UV available on all sorts of Apple devices. On the service side Apple is incredibly successful but in the same way we have struggled in making digital ownership a business so have they. Apple has strong music and apps but they don’t have a big video business. They want to grow that also and we hope over time that they will participate.”

On Disney Perrette added: “They spent some time and investment in Keychest [a rival digital rights initiative] but they are not looking to be outliers and I am optimistic that they will join at some point.”

So there’s no danger of a format war? “You have one versus everybody else,” answered John Calkins, executive VP, Global Digital and Commercial Innovation at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “I like this side of the bet.”

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