Cloud movie locker UltraViolet is finally closing


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UltraViolet, an older “cloud movie locker” service, is shutting down. The service, which allowed consumers to unlock a digital copy of their DVDs and Blu-Rays, was something of a transitional step between the age of physical media and today’s streaming video landscape. Over time, it’s become less necessary for consumers, as movie marketplaces and subscription services now offer extensive libraries of movies for streaming, rental and purchase – all in digital formats.

The shutdown was first reported by Variety.

Today, UltraViolet claims to have over 30 million users, who are able to stream more than 300 million movies and shows from their cloud libraries. But arguably, “UltraViolet” never became a household name.

The service was not well-received at launch. When the Hollywood and tech execs first came up with the idea, many people at the time thought it was just another “form of DRM” to keep people from

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Walmart’s Vudu app now converts your physical movies to digital for $2 each


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 Want to build a movie library without having to re-purchase all the DVDs and Blu-rays you already purchased? Walmart’s streaming video service Vudu has you covered, with a new feature available via its iPhone and Android mobile apps. The new “Disc-to-Digital” feature allows users to scan the barcode on the case for their DVD or Blu-Ray movies, pay a $2 per movie fee for… Read More

Scientists create 3D-printed objects that can change shape after they’re printed


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mit-3d-printing-1_0 3D printed plastics tend to remain pretty stable over time. For example, your 3D-printed Yoda won’t turn into a Chewbacca head without some severe plastic trauma… until now. Scientists at MIT have created a 3D printing technique that allows you to change the polymers in an object after printing. This means you can grow or shrink and object, change its color, and even change its… Read More

Walmart’s Vudu Now Allows UltraViolet Users To Share Their Movies With Up To Five Friends


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vudu-tv Vudu is introducing a feature that will allow its customers to share their UltraViolet collections with up to five friends or family. With the new Share My Movie feature, Vudu customers will be able to enter the email address of five people that they’d like to give access to for their movies. Read More

Rest easy, Veronica Mars Kickstarter fans: WB will refund iTunes & Amazon purchases


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Rest easy, Veronica Mars Kickstarter fans: WB will refund iTunes & Amazon purchases
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

After devoted Kickstarter backers of the Veronica Mars Movie complained about being forced to use the studio-approved Flixster/Ultraviolet service to watch the film, Warner Brothers is stepping up.

Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas announced last night that WB customer support would help backers who want to view the film on more widely used platforms like iTunes and Amazon.

“If you paid for a copy of the movie a year ago, we don’t want you to have less choice and freedom than people who decide to buy it today,” Thomas wrote in a Kickstarter update. “And we definitely don’t want you to end up paying twice just to see the movie on your preferred service.”

So if you’ve struggled to get Flixster working properly (and I know many people who have), or if you simply want to watch the long-awaited Veronica Mars film on your Apple TV, you now have other options. It looks like WB will offer refunds to backers who send along their receipts from other services, Re/code reports.

Let’s rewind: The Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign was a long-shot. Fans of the show, which centered on a high schooler who also worked as a private detective, waited for years to see series resurrected. And as much as the cast and creator were willing to jump aboard, WB never stopped dragging its legs.

Enter Kickstarter and the possibility of crowdfunding the film with fans. After launching a Kickstarter campaign a year ago, the Veronica Mars movie ended up raising $1 million in four hours, breaking the site’s previous funding record. It reached its goal of $2 million in just 10 hours, and ultimately ended with $5.7 million raised. (Yes, I’m also a backer.)

After premiering at SXSW last week, the film ended up receiving generally positive reviews. So not only did Veronica Mars fans manage to make their dream project happen, it also ended up being good.

But trouble started yesterday when Kickstarter backers began receiving their codes to view the film, only to find that Flixster/Ultraviolet was their only option.

Movie studios have been pushing the Ultraviolet platform as an alternative to iTunes and Amazon — but it hasn’t received much traction. (If you’ve bought a Blu-ray recently, you’ve probably got some unredeemed Ultraviolet codes stacked up.)

Flixster, which is owned by Warner Bros., is one of many ways to view Ultraviolet titles. (You can also redeem UV titles on Vudu and other services, which only adds to the confusion.) Even though the film was funded primarily through Kickstarter, WB still put in money for distribution to theaters and other costs. If this were a truly independent Kickstarter, you can be sure the film would go through a DRM-free service like VHX.

While there’s a somewhat of a good intention behind Ultraviolet — studios want to offer a way to view their titles without being locked into iTunes and Amazon — ultimately, it’s a service that solves more problems for studios than it does consumers.

Ultraviolet isn’t as user-friendly as iTunes and Amazon, especially during signup, and people who only have Apple TVs have no way to view Ultraviolet titles on their televisions. So when tons of consumers were forced to use the service for the first time, it’s no surprise they complained.

WB’s promise to refund Kickstarter backers is the best possible outcome of this situation. And it couldn’t come too soon — the Flixster issues were shaping up to be one big black mark on an otherwise flawless Kickstarter campaign.


    



I saw Veronica Mars, thanks to a $35 donation, 3 websites, 2 apps and an $8 movie ticket


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Let’s begin with a disclosure/disclaimer: I was a fan of Veronica Mars when it first premiered in 2004, and remained a fan through its three-season run. While I was disappointed when it was canceled, I didn’t spend the seven years since mourning it too much; in fact, it wasn’t until the morning that series creator Rob Thomas unveiled his record-breaking Kickstarter campaign for a film-length follow-up that I realized how much I wanted to see that movie.

So, like 25 percent of the film’s more than 91,000 backers, I contributed to the campaign at the $35 level, and over the last year I have thus received a T-shirt, stickers and almost 90 Kickstarter emails from Thomas about the progress of the project. Friday, I received the final rewards from my pledge — digital copies of the film and the screenplay. I also went to see the movie at a movie theater. It’s been a long day with Veronica Mars.

$35 donors got to log into some websites!

On Wednesday (Kickstarter campaign status update #88), it was announced how exactly us donors would be receiving our copies of the movie:

In the end, Flixster was the only service able to provide download codes to all of our backers, in all countries, on the same date, without restricting where the movie could be screened or sold. (Which, if you ask us, is pretty awesome.) If it was possible to let you choose your preferred download service, we would.

That wording might suggest that the reason for this decision was down to technical issues — except that Flixster/UltraViolet is not the only way to digitally distribute a film.

The issue, in this case, is likely the fact that Flixster is owned by Warner Bros. — the studio which has held the rights to Veronica Mars from the beginning, and was actively involved in creating the Kickstarter campaign and producing the film.

As someone who prefers iTunes, streaming, or copyright-free digital downloads, this meant a descent into DRM hell.

First, Flixster. While I’d previously downloaded the iPhone/iPad app before, this was the first time I’d ever had reason to use it to watch media — it’s how I look up movie showtimes.

Because you don’t need to log in to a Flixster account in order to look up movie showtimes, I couldn’t remember my password and had to reset it. (And oh, it turns out that Flixster gave me a free copy of the 2003 Nicholas Cage movie Matchstick Men at some point in the past. Thank you, Flixster!)

Once I was logged in, I was then asked to link Flixster to an Ultraviolet account, which I set up for the first time. That’s where I hit a technical snag, where my attempt to link the UltraViolet and Flixster accounts didn’t appear to work, and when I tried to start the process over, my activation code for the digital download was rejected as already used.

So I Googled “UltraViolet,” found the official UltraViolet website, and tried logging into that — it worked, and some navigation through Flixster’s website eventually linked the two accounts, with both of my new movies appearing in my Flixster library across all devices.

flixster library screenshot

$35 donors still had more work to do, to watch it on television

I then attempted to actually start watching Veronica Mars. On my iPad, the opening scene loaded up quickly (once I updated the Flixster app to the most up-to-date version), but when I tried mirroring the iPad directly to my TV via a digital AV adapter and HDMI cable, Flixster recognized that I’d connected a secondary display, and refused to play because of “licensing and studio restrictions”. So my best option became the VUDU app for PlayStation3, which would load up all of my UltraViolet content.

I’ve used VUDU once before (after getting a free credit), so I had an account for the service. But my new UltraViolet account wasn’t connected to it, so I returned to my computer to log into VUDU via browser and address that issue.

Once accomplished, VUDU did update almost instantly, and streaming was smooth. But that’s three different accounts I had to log into or set up, to play Veronica Mars (a movie I technically helped make possible) on my television.

From a business/strategy standpoint, this makes a lot of sense: In order to watch Veronica Mars, Warner Bros. made me figure out how all of this works, and I’m now in theory set up to purchase more movies from these services.

On the other hand, I am now very, very appreciative of the simplicity of iTunes. And I’m not the only one — other donors have been quite vocal about all of this, leading Thomas to send out his 89th Kickstarter update late Friday night:

We understand that some of you prefer other platforms or services for watching digital content… If you paid for a copy of the movie a year ago, we don’t want you to have less choice and freedom than people who decide to buy it today. And we definitely don’t want you to end up paying twice just to see the movie on your preferred service.

Please know that Warner Bros have given Customer Support a lot of freedom to help make things right, so if you’re having issues, please let them know: they’ll do their best to either help get Flixster working to your satisfaction, or, if you prefer, to provide an alternate solution.

Because, right now, if you want to buy or rent Veronica Mars, you can do it via Amazon, or iTunes. (Amazon has the better pricing.) You may not get the satisfaction of helping make the movie happen. (Or a t-shirt.) But on a technical level, you might be better off.

$35 donors received the screenplay

While waiting for an app to update, I also downloaded my copy of the script, which was (according to the official notification) “personalized.” Personalized! Such a thoughtful, caring way of warning me that the PDF I received from Deluxedigitaldownload.com was watermarked and, therefore, I would be liable if my copy ever leaked.

veronica mars screenplay screenshot

$35 donors wore their t-shirts to the movie theater

A month ago, I bought tickets with a group of fellow Mars fans to attend opening night at one of the AMC theaters showing the film in Los Angeles. I won’t say too much about the movie itself (except there’s a solid self-depricating Kickstarter joke in there), but it’s a real movie, professional and well-made, and seeing it in the theater was fun. Especially because the audience was full of “Marshmallows” who cheered when their favorite characters appeared on screen, who laughed at all the jokes and who applauded regularly and often.

A few of them also wore their official Kickstarter t-shirts, and at least half the theater lingered all the way through the credits. And at the very end of the credits is a note thanking the movie’s Kickstarter backers for making the film possible. Those there clapped loudly, and a woman behind me shouted “We did it!” The applause? It got louder.

I wouldn’t say Veronica Mars‘s return went perfectly. But I definitely feel like, in the long run, my $35 was well spent.

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VHX goes big with public launch of distribution service


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From social video community to robust media distribution platform with over 300 active titles, VHX has had an impressive journey over the past two years. On Monday, it took a new step towards the democratization of content distribution by opening the platform to anyone who has a video they want to sell directly to consumers.

VHX has officially been in public beta since September 2012, but the service is now fully open to users; features available to uploaders include the ability to send out coupons and screener copies of their work, plus control pricing and geoblocking.

The official dashboard offers transaction tracking and a list of previous customers who have subscribed to a project’s mailing list. In addition, VHX is lowering the rates it charges creators, now taking 10 percent (plus a $0.50 fee per transaction) instead of the previous cut of 15 percent. (The new pricing will apply retroactively — previous users will be migrated to it.)

vhx_home_lrg

Other developments in the works include better tools for audience building and community management (such as a newsletter creation feature), as well as a “video locker” that, in CEO Jamie Wilkinson’s words via phone, will “operate the way Ultraviolet is supposed to.”

While VHX was initially selective about the films it would distribute, Wilkinson said that he wasn’t concerned about any potential distillation of the brand.

“The big reason for limiting the films was that we wanted to have high level of customer service,” he said. “It was less about brand control and more about building a platform for a lot of use cases.” According to him, the VHX home page drives “relatively little traffic.”

VHX has continued to pick up high-profile projects — just recently, it was announced that Kevin Spacey (Gigaom’s favorite political psychopath) would be distributing a new documentary through the service.

But while it’s made a name for itself as a distributor of independent film, VHX is now exploring other potential genres.

“There’s a lot of areas of video that we haven’t gone really deep with,” Wilkinson said. “Lots of content that used to be sold on DVD could be sold online,” including lectures and tutorial series.

With the site now open to the public, it’s not as possible for the VHX team to take the hands-on approach they have in the past. However, according to Wilkinson, the years of beta-testing have helped them develop the tools necessary to make VHX scalable.

“That’s why we’ve been in public beta for so long — we’ve been dealing with customer support and payment structure,” he said. “We’ve built up a body of knowledge that we can share, with lots of great examples and case studies.” VHX currently has 16 employees, with two dedicated full-time to customer service and others chipping in occasionally.

“We have our sights set pretty big,” Wilkinson said.

Featured image via @VHXTV on Twitter.

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UltraViolet for iOS: how to make the most of your digital movies


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Digital movie libraries were once located solely on the hard drive of one’s computer. Occasionally DVDs came with either an iTunes or a Windows Media file to unlock. Now you get redemption codes that will add movies to a cloud based movie library of the seller’s choice, not yours. The chances of maintaining an iTunes only approach to your cloud based movie collection dwindles with each new release.

iTunes Digital Copy

The trend with new movie releases seems to be heading exclusively towards Ultraviolet digital copies. As an example, the Lords of the Ring collection I purchased just last year came with a digital copy that is now part of my iTunes library whereas The Hobbit’s digital copy has found its way into an UltraViolet library. It seems like Bilbo and Frodo have different destinies after all.

The following will look at the different ways of obtaining a digital copy of a movie as well as how accessible each cloud based movie library is when it comes to watching the movie on various Apple devices.

UltraViolet Digital Copy

UltraViolet Apple TV AirPlay

Flixster is just one of many retailers that support access to your UltraViolet movie collection in the cloud. WallMart Entertainment, Target Ticket and BestBuy Cinema Now are three other such retailers that will allow you to purchase UltraViolet movies and add them to your collection.

Once added to your UltraViolet collection, the movie is accessible by any participating retailer’s cloud service. UltraViolet movies that I added through my Flixster account are accessible from my Target account, and visa versa. The other great thing about your UltraViolet movie library is that there are plenty of apps in the iOS app store (listed below) that will allow you to access and view your movies from your iPhone or iPad. Unfortunately, not one of them will allow you to stream a movie to the Apple TV.

Amazon Disc + On Demand

At first I thought Amazon’s Disc on Demand service was just like Amazon’s Auto Rip program for music discs. Sadly I was mistaken. What you do get when buying a DVD or Blu-Ray disc from Amazon that qualifies for this program is a one-time movie rental of the movie you purchased. The idea is that you will have the ability to instantly watch the movie while you wait for it to be delivered. Being an Amazon Prime customer, you have access to a collection of movies and television shows just as you do on services like Netflix. Unlike such services, you can also purchase movies and television shows, which Amazon will be more than happy to store for you in their cloud.

Just this year, Amazon has enabled AirPlay capabilities on their iOS app, which will allow you to play your entire Amazon video collection on the Apple TV.

Disc to Digital

Flixster Disc to Digital

You do not always need a code to gain access to a digital copy of a movie you have bought on a physical disc. One of the unique features that Flixster offers via its OS X app is the ability to scan in your existing DVD movie library and ‘upgrade’ to a SD or HD version of the movie in their cloud based movie library. The app runs on OS X and will identify the DVD in very much the same way Apple’s own iTunes Match works with music discs. The one catch is that you will have to pay a “fee” for this service. I am not sure I am ready to invest so much into my aging DVD library, but it is nice to know I have options.

While most retailers that support UltraViolet are making every effort to ensure that your movie library is accessible on your Mac and iOS devices, not one of them have any means of playing movies on the Apple TV. Amazon is a good all-around solution: you can even play back your Amazon movies using AirPlay on your Apple TV. The one thing you cannot do is transfer any of your digital copies into your Amazon Instant Library. Amazon does not support UltraViolet and the movie industry does not allow for digital copies to be redeemed into your Amazon library.

With no means to play back any movie in one’s UltraViolet collection on an Apple TV, something will certainly have to change; and soon, hopefully.

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Vudu’s disc-to-digital Ultraviolet movie conversion app comes to OS X


This post is by Tom Cheredar from VentureBeat


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Vudu

Vudu, the digital Ultraviolet movie retail and rental store service owned by Walmart, is releasing a full version of its disc-to-digital software today, which is now available on Macs.

The disc-to-digital program basically allows you to spend a small fee to grab the digital version of the DVD or Bluray movie you purchased from retail stores. Initially, this was only offered to those that purchased a movie from Walmart, but that stipulation was lifted back in January, thus boosting the appeal for people who like to avoid the country’s largest mega-retail store. The pricing on the full version of Vudu’s software remains the same, with standard definition digital conversions at $2 per movie and $5 for high-definition.

It’s worth noting that when converting a Bluray, you’ll only need to spend $2 to grab the movie in HD. However, Mac users will have to spring for the $5 option to get HD version of their DVDs  since it doesn’t have a disc drive capable of reading Bluray discs.

Still, Vudu’s offer should be plenty appealing to movie buffs that want to watch their past purchases on the go. The disc-to-digital service is cheaper (in the majority of cases) than buying a standalone digital version of a movie, and the process is much less painless than converting your movies to digital formats on your own. Vudu’s player is available across lots of set-top boxes, iOS, and Android.

To kick off the full version of the desktop software, Vudu is giving away the first conversion for free and 50 percent off when you convert 10 or more movies.

Via Engadget

Filed under: Media

    

Keep Essential Information Hidden in Plain Sight with a UV Pen


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Considering the amount of passwords, PINs, and other vital information, such as Social Security numbers, that we have to keep handy it’s not surprising that many people write down information like this and keep it on a sticky note or the back of a business card. If you want to keep essential information readily available and yet hard to decipher, consider picking up a UV pen and LED flashlight so you can write down your passwords on any paper source. More »

UltraViolet Now Has Over 9M Accounts, Smart TV Buyers To Get 10 Movies Free In 2013


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IMG_4165

Today at the official first-day keynote of CES 2013, CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro introduced a group of Hollywood studio executives to announce a new partnership between UltraViolet, the digital movie locker service designed to help move movie sales to a multi-device future, and TV and Blu-ray player manufacturers. Warner Home Video President Ron Sanders also shared some stats on the service’s progress: It now has more than 9 million accounts, and expects to pass the 10 million mark sometime in the next few months.

The arrangement between UltraViolet’s group of studios, which includes Sony Pictures, Universal, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate, as well as home theatre CE device makers, will see buyers of new smart TVs and connected Blu-ray players receive 10 free movies with their device purchase starting later this year. Manufacturers on board include LG, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio.

Sanders also discussed how vendors like Flixster, which are providing disk-to-digital services, will enable users to convert their existing media to UltraViolet-enabled digital editions for sharing across their devices.

While Sanders made UltraViolet sound like a way to unlock your media, it’s essentially still a means for Hollywood publishers and studios to enforce DRM on digital content. In a lot of ways, it’s a case of getting users to pay for their content all over again, since fees are incurred when you want to convert your DVDs and physical media to an UltraViolet-compatible format through Walmart and other providers.

UltraViolet’s progress numbers indicate that people are using the service, but the decision to include free copies with new shipping consumer electronic devices is also obviously designed as a way to promote the service and get it traction with a wider population.

UltraViolet took heat for having a weak launch, with reviews that were less than stellar. The company is now clearly eager to share updated numbers about its traction. But more info on revenue would be interesting to see, even more so than sign-up numbers, which don’t necessarily reflect how the service is doing from a financial standpoint.

Walmart’s Vudu Now Lets You Convert Your DVDs And Blu-Rays To Digital Copies From Your Home


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Image (1) 656170_vudu_logo.jpg for post 204828

Last year, Walmart announced an ambitious program aimed at getting people to convert the movies they’ve already bought in DVD or Blu-ray format to digital copies that they could stream or download from their UltraViolet digital rights locker. The disc-to-digital program was a way for the movie studios — and Walmart — to help convert users who watched physical discs to start taking advantage of streaming options and digital storefronts instead.

But there was one big problem: It involved going through the hassle of taking your discs to Walmart, getting them scanned and entered into a database. For those who didn’t want to drive to the nearest big-box store, or who didn’t want to sit around and wait for their movies to be added to their locker, the disc-to-digital program was a bust.

So the company is making it easier for users to convert their existing movies to digital, with the launch of a desktop app that will let them scan their discs at home. The VUDU To Go app, which will be available from the company’s website soon, will work on Macs and PCs, and will require users to enter a physical disc into their drive to show that they own it.

While the ability to covert physical to digital from the comfort of one’s home may seem like an awesome idea, there are some limitations. For instance, the conversion will only work for movies from certain studios. While it’s got most of the big ones on board, including DreamWorks Animation, Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, and Warner Bros., Disney is noticeably absent.

Also, there’s a fee involved. It costs $2 to convert DVDs to digital and $5 to convert Blu-rays and make them available through various UltraViolet services.

But once all that’s done, there’s the promise of being able to own your movie forevermore without ever having to buy it again. In the same way that owning digital music means we no longer need to purchase a new format of the White Album every time some newfangled device comes along, movie owners and collectors should (theoretically) be able to store their digital copies and access them through UltraViolet whenever.

That’s a future that would be awesome if it worked for everyone. We’re getting there, but you know, the future can’t come soon enough.

Barnes & Noble launches Nook Video, including UltraViolet support


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from GigaOM


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In an effort to compete with Amazon and iTunes, Barnes & Noble is launching Nook Video, which will offer “an expansive digital collection of popular films and television shows to be enjoyed anywhere on Nooks, TVs, tablets and smartphones.” The service launches in the US “this fall” and in the UK “this holiday season.”

Partners so far include HBO, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, STARZ, Viacom and Warner Bros. Entertainment, plus “favorite movies” from Walt Disney. “Other leading studios” will be announced soon, according to the release. For now, Paramount and NBC/Universal are missing.

Barnes & Noble is partnering with UltraViolet, the initiative from Hollywood studios that lets viewers watch content across devices and aims to break Apple’s stranglehold on the digital movie market. (Amazon is also an UltraViolet retail partner.)

Many details are missing from the press release, including prices, availability and free streaming options (if any). It’s also unclear which devices — Nooks and otherwise — will support Nook Video. Barnes & Noble is expected to release a new tablet soon, and the company also promises “soon-to-launch free Nook Video apps.”

Fox finally wises up, will start selling digital movies before they leave theaters


This post is by Tom Cheredar from VentureBeat


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Major film studio Fox is revising its business plan when it comes to newly released movies.

Beginning with Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus, Fox will start selling high-definition digital copies of its movies three weeks before they hit retail shelves on DVD or video On Demand services, reports the New York Times. The move marks a shift in strategy for the film studio, which previously treated physical sales and VOD as the main focus of generating revenue after a film left the box office. In fact, the Times indicates that this will actually allow new releases to become available for purchase even prior to leaving theaters.

Fox will sell the digital movies, which it’s branding “Digital HD,” for about $15. That’s cheaper than the price usually charged for physical sales during the regular release cycle, and about half of what the studios were charging under a similar plan that would allow would-be movie goers to watch a film via VOD (thus replacing the theater experience). The studio hopes the lower prices will lure people back to buying movies.

Fox is also making its movies available through UltraViolet, the movie studio standard platform that allows consumers to watch their digital movies in one central location regardless of which online venue they purchased from.

This is a good move for Fox because it’ll likely decrease the incentive to pirate movies and take advantage of consumers’ willingness to buy them if they’re available. I’m surprised the studio didn’t try this sooner.

Filed under: media


Flixster spruces up its web app with better discovery, UltraViolet store & more


This post is by Tom Cheredar from VentureBeat


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Movie-focused service Flixster is releasing a new version of its web application today, which includes a cleaner user interface, UltraViolet store support, and more.

Most people probably recognize Flixster as a way to find nearby theaters and showtimes, but the service has built an impressive platform to grow beyond a simple utility app since Time Warner acquired it (along with popular movie rating site Rotten Tomatoes). The Flixster app lets you rate movies, find where to watch them online, and keep track of all your UltraViolet-compatible purchases.

UltraViolet, for those who don’t know, is the standard movie studios use for keeping track of digital copies of the movies you buy from various online vendors. But with a strong presence from non-UV movie sellers iTunes and Amazon, Flixster is essentially trying to rope in users by being an aggregator of movies from everywhere.

With that in mind, Flixster now offers a selection of UV-compatible titles to buy through the website along with one-click UV registration.

The new web update also revamps the sidebar navigation into three categories: Browsing for movies, your own movie (collection/watch list/ratings), and redemption. Flixster has also removed the “Top Rated” movie lists in favor of a new search utility, which allows you to narrow down a movie by Tomatometer (rating), release date, and genre.

Additionally, Flixster is ramping up its gamification. Users can earn free movies through the service by downloading the Flixster mobile and desktop apps, sharing their Flixster activity with friends on Facebook, etc. It’s a decent incentive to use the app, which actually does a good job helping you keep track of your movie watching habits.

Filed under: media


Amazon’s Big Hollywood Announcement: All About UltraViolet?


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Amazon-logo

Amazon is holding a press event in Los Angeles on Thursday, in which it’s likely to announce new versions of its Kindle tablets. You know, now that the Kindle Fire is all sold out. There have even been some leaks about what that product will look like, and the fact that it could be ad-supported. But the location of the press event in Santa Monica could also mean that Amazon will be making a big announcement around new video content that’s available through those new products.

As Seth Porges astutely points out at Forbes, when a big tech company does an announcement in Los Angeles, that usually means there’s some sort of Hollywood studio connection. That isn’t always the case — check out Microsoft’s L.A. announcement of the Surface tablet for proof — but usually if a company like Amazon is gonna make a trip to Southern California for a product release, you can probably expect some studio execs in the room.

Now, Porges believes that means Amazon is likely to announce a major deal that will bring thousands of new titles to its Amazon Prime subscription video-on-demand service. Maybe that’s true, but somehow I don’t think so. Amazon has gradually been announcing new titles for the service over the past 18 months and is now up to about 22,000 pieces of content. Moreover, it’s more or less worked its way through most of the major media companies already, and is now working on expanded content deals with partners — see its recent re-up with NBC Universal, for instance. So an expanded Amazon Prime library doesn’t make much sense — it’s just seems too incremental, not “big” enough to announce alongside a new product like this.

But what if Amazon announced a way for users to have access to a wide range of movies on its new Kindle devices that they might have purchased on other online services, like Vudu or Flixster? This is pure speculation, but here’s my bet: When Amazon announces the newest versions of its tablets on Thursday, it’ll also be announcing wide support for Hollywood’s UltraViolet initiative, which is aimed at allowing users to buy once and watch anywhere.

Amazon is already an UltraViolet partner, having announced a deal with one UltraViolet studio (presumed to be Warner Bros.) at CES in January. But it’s yet to come out with an UltraViolet-compliant digital storefront of its own, or support UV titles purchased from other retailers, like Vudu.

While UltraViolet holds some promise for consumers, by giving them the ability to transfer digital rights to content across a wide range of apps and devices, most retailers haven’t been as keen on the service. After all, why would one company agree to pay the cost of streaming a title that was purchased from another retailer’s online store? There’s not a big advantage for most to join in.

For Amazon, though, joining UltraViolet means opening up more content that can be viewed on its new Kindle Fire devices. That includes movies that they’ve already bought in older formats: Earlier this year, Walmart’s Vudu unveiled a disc-to-digital program that allows users to take their DVDs to Walmart and add them to their digital lockers for a nominal fee. ($2 for DVDs to SD digital and $5 to upgrade to HD, or $2 for Blu-ray discs to digital) For those who care to take their DVDs and Blu-rays into a physical store, that could mean a lot more movies to watch on the new Kindle Fire.

So Amazon could very well announce full UltraViolet support for all the major studios participating. That would let Kindle owners to link their Video app with their UltraViolet digital lockers, and presto! instantly have more movies to watch. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the thing came with some small credit to incentivize users to sign up and “purchase” their first UV title that way. If so, there will likely be a way for Amazon users to instantly “upgrade” or add their existing video purchases to their UltraViolet locker for a small nominal fee.

But what if Amazon took that a step further? It already has DVD purchase information for millions of users. What if those users could simply “convert” those DVD purchases to digital — again, for a small, nominal fee?

There are no guarantees, of course. And maybe launching product in L.A. is just the hip new thing for tech companies from the Pacific Northwest to do. I’m just saying I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon announces support for UltraViolet on Thursday — and if it does, it’ll probably do so in a big way.


HBO deal ends Fox blackout on iCloud


This post is by Daniel Frankel from GigaOM


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Fox has reached terms with HBO (z TWX) to relax rules in the studio’s pay TV contract limiting its distribution to cloud-based services such as Apple’s iCloud and UltraViolet.

Also read: Is Fox facing a blackout on iCloud and UltraViolet?

A studio representative confirmed an agreement with Apple to make its films available for iTunes users to re-download previous purchases of Fox films through iCloud.

HBO’s contract rules meant that Fox movies like Prometheus were previously blacked out from clouds while they were in the HBO pay TV window, which starts around six months after DVD release and can extend for up to 18 months.

That means if you purchased the film through iTunes, and you deleted it from your notebook, tablet or smartphone, you couldn’t re-download it from iCloud while it was in HBO’s window.

Earlier in the year, Warner Bros. and Universal negotiated similar terms with HBO.

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    Time Warner’s CEO: “Hulu authenticating makes sense”


    This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from GigaOM


    Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




    Hulu should require viewers to have a cable subscription, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes suggested in an investor call following the company’s Q1 2012 earnings report this morning.

    “We think Hulu authenticating makes sense,” he added. “We think Hulu is heading in the right direction now and it might continue to be viable.”

    Bewkes was responding to a question on rumors that Hulu will start requiring users to prove that they have a cable TV subscription before using its service.

    HBO Go to more platforms soon

    HBO Go is having “a significant positive impact” on Time Warner’s business and 93 percent of users say Go makes them more loyal to HBO, Bewkes said. Consumers using HBO Go are watching HBO more than they used to, Bewkes said, and HBO Go will launch on more platforms soon — it will “become widely accessible on connected TVs.” Microsoft’s Xbox Live added HBO Go in March.

    Ultraviolet added 1 million registered users in last four weeks

    Bewkes said that UltraViolet, the digital cloud initiative being jointly launched by Hollywood’s major studios — Time Warner’s Warner Bros. division included — is still in its early stages, “but consumers are downloading and streaming in very large numbers,” Bewkes said. “More than 2 million accounts have been created and 5,000 titles are available. [It took five months to gain]the first million registrations, then we added 1 million more in the past 4 weeks.”

    Choosing what to stream

    “We’re more than happy to work with SVOD [subscription video on demand] companies to license our content,” Bewkes said. “Our overarching goal is simply to maximize the lifetime value of the content.”

    He cited CBS sitcom hit “The Big Bang Theory” as a show that is “likely to have multiple cycles” and is “unlikely … to go to SVOD anytime soon. We’re trying to balance the value of the later cycles.”

    “For older content that has either gone through several cycles, or for shows that are serialized and work better on a VOD basis … those are the kinds of things you can be more efficient with when you put them on SVOD,” Bewkes said. “Take the CW deal we did as an SVOD sale to Netflix. Those shows had more efficient and higher value in an SVOD service, with a little earlier availability, than we thought we could get in traditional syndicated buy-ins. It really depends on the nature of the programming.”

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