LAS VEGAS - Slowly, the UltraViolet digital content locker system intended to let consumers pay one price to purchase movie and TV titles for playback on multiple home and hand-held devices said the system is solidifying into a compelling use model, supporters said a press conference here Tuesday.
Mark Teitell, executive director and general manager of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a group of more than 70 companies connected to the film and CE industries to develop and promote UltraViolet, said the system made a lot of progress following its launch in 2011, having three studios deploy while a fourth - Paramount - announced it will soon be marketing UltraViolet content as well.
Consumers today using UltraViolet can already stream and download content to PCs, Macs, Android and iOS handheld devices.
But the late launch of UltraViolet last year coupled with the need to use a computer to sign up, get a code to authenticate titles and maintain an UltraViolet library left a number of early reviewers frustrated with the process.
So far around 20 movies have been released with UltraViolet rights but the studios are expecting that at least 100 titles will be released on Blu-ray this year with UltraViolet rights.
Still, Teitell said that even in the early stages, 750,000 household accounts (more than 1 million people) had registered as UltraViolet early adopters.
The numbers should grow significantly in 2012, the DECE contends, following announcements here this week that Samsung and Panasonic will market Blu-ray Disc players with built-in UltraViolet support.
Samsung's player will leverage UltraViolet to perform three different tasks - using a Flixster player app the BD player will view what is in a user's personal UltraViolet library, select a title and begin streaming it onto a TV screen.
The Samsung device will even let consumers add certain movies they bought on DVD or Blu-ray before UltraViolet existed to their online collection for an unspecified fee.
Teitell said the new Samsung and Panasonic devices will help UltraViolet families create UltraViolet rights in their family libraries for the first time.
"When someone has bought a Blu-ray Disc that has UltraViolet rights, the new players will automatically recognize that and facilitate an on-screen command so a person can register and log into an UltraViolet account and then leave themselves logged in and add that right to their rights library," Teitel said.
So far, consumers have been required to follow the instructions on a Blu-ray package, go to a Web site and enter a code to stream UltraViolet content. But the new Samsung player for the first time will read the Blu-ray Disc and help add that right to a user's library, automatically.
In addition Samsung's and Panasonic's UltraViolet Blu-ray players will have Flixster pre-installed enabling users who already have UltraViolet libraries created to use the Samsung or Panasonic players (and certain Panasonic smart TVs as well) to access that library menu and select and play that content.
Also during Tuesday's press conference Bill Carr, Amazon's executive VP, announced that Amazon.com will soon start selling digital downloads of movies from one undisclosed studio using the UltraViolet format. The move means that users will not be limited to using DVD or Blu-ray Discs carrying UltraViolet codes to access streaming titles online with software from the Warner Bros.-owned Flixster service.
Meanwhile, the DECE has also been trying to eliminate another bump in the road in developing a common file format for downloaded content files that will be interchangeable on a variety of different platforms and device brands. The standard format would do away with the need to re-download a video with a different format type to play on various devices.
"Think of having a movie file on a USB stick that can be used with device brand X or device brand Y," Teitell explained. "Up till now if I wanted to play a downloaded file, I would have been able to because I had an UltraViolet right, but I may have had to go with a different media formats to play it on all of the various devices that are around. When this common file format is ready you will have one file that will work with all UltraViolet devices, as an added convenience."
Teitell said the common file format has been of high interest to consumer electronics manufacturers, since a company called Cast Labs has developed an Android app able to play a real movie file format developed to the common file format spec.
"We expect a number of companies in the industry to start to deploy this technology now so that we can roll it out to consumers during 2012," Teitell said. "The tech, specs and design are all done for this but this will be the first time that the technology has even been showcased about it."