The UltraViolet format launched quietly late last year without much of a fuss, presenting as a bonus "digital copy" when consumers purchased certain Blu-ray movies like The Smurfs, Green Lantern, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. This digital copy is only playable through Flixter either online or via the Android or iOS apps but it's being touted as 'The Next Big Thing,' the next step in media consumption as consumers move away from physical media. Unlike videos purchased on iTunes or Amazon, these are not locked to a specific OS or hardware platform: the movies can be played back on any device that supports the Flixter app -- the movies can even be played within Facebook (there's an app for that). That's the awesome aspect of UltraViolet.
The kicker here, though, is that Hollywood is currently forcing consumers to purchase the physical copy before they have access to the UltraViolet version. Many consumers don't want to purchase DVDs or Blu-ray movies anymore -- they want digital versions they can watch on their laptop, their tablet, their smartphones and their portable media player (like the iPod Touch) without having to jump through hoops or beg Hollywood for extra permissions. Without purchasing the physical disc, the UltraViolet version is inaccessible, and presently consumers can't even unlock digital versions of movies they already own. To that end, UltraViolet is seemingly at a standstill despite Hollywood's push.
However, there may be some good news after all. Currently, Warner Bros-owned Flixter is pushing the UltraViolet format by offering a free movie on the house -- all users need to do is create an actual UltraViolet account (which is free) on both the Flixter and UltraViolet websites. What's more, mega online retailer Amazon has also reportedly signed on to actually sell UltraViolet movies without the requirement of physical copies. The announcement was made on Tuesday by Amazon VP Bill Carr while speaking at a panel discussion.
As it stands now, Amazon has reportedly struck a deal with Warner Bros. to sell UltraViolet movies and TV episodes, or rather, the codes to unlock the digital content, directly to consumers. However, though Amazon has confirmed it has signed a deal with one Hollywood studio, the Warner Bros. aspect of this story is just an assumption made by multiple film-industry sources. For what it's worth, Warner Bros. is one of the biggest studios and one of UV's biggest supporters among the 70 Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) member companies. DECE is the consortium that actually founded UltraViolet. What's more, Warner Bros. owns Flixter. So, to assume that Amazon's new deal was signed with Warner Bros. is not exactly a wild stab in the dark. Just know that it is unconfirmed by either party as of writing; Warner representatives declined to comment and Amazon did not respond to an interview request, CNET reports.
In addition to Amazon's hopeful solution, Samsung said on Wednesday that certain 2012 Blu-ray players will feature Disc-To-Digital which will essentially unlock the UltraViolet version of every DVD and Blu-ray movie the user registers with the device. This was the direction the UltraViolet consortium had in mind in the first place: allowing consumers to register their current and future DVDs and Blu-ray discs to unlock a digital version that is theirs to keep forever and ever.
There's no question that the highly-anticipated UltraViolet format saw a slow, underwhelming start last year, but 2012 looks to be the year the new format will take off thanks to the likes of Amazon and Samsung. Perhaps, if Amazon proves to be successful, additional Hollywood studios will jump on-board and sell digital copies directly to consumers, bypassing the dying physical format once and for all.