Ultraviolet Launches Licensing Program Leading to Digital Locker in the Cloud

9:00 PM PST 07/12/2011 by Carolyn Giardina

The move is the first step in introducing a new digital rights management system, coming in the fall.

The studio consortium Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem has launched a licensing program for its Ultraviolet initiative, which will ultimately permit consumers to buy their digital content once then watch it anytime on any supported device, app or service.

Ultraviolet is essentially a cloud-based, digital-rights management system that will create an online virtual library for each consumer. The licensing program is an important first step in bringing Ultraviolet to the market, since it will allow content owners, as well as technology and service providers, to start to implement Ultraviolet support in their content, services and consumer devices.

DECE anticipates that consumers in the United States will be able to purchase select movies and TV shows with UltraViolet rights beginning this fall. Following the U.S. launch -- which will likely include a push during the holiday season -- DECE plans to then introduce the service to the U.K. and Canada.

Stakeholders are betting that Ultraviolet could have a big impact on the home entertainment industry, because studios are now facing a situation where online content rental is on the rise while content ownership is on the decline.

“We've done a lot consumer research focus groups,” Mitch Singer, president of DECE and CTO at Sony Pictures Entertainment, told The Hollywood Reporter. “Consumers are not telling us they don't want to (own content), but that they don't want to collect it because they are not sure it will play on the devices they buy in the future. So they are staying out of the market in this walled garden because they don't want to be locked in. They want freedom and they want choice. We are directly addressing the dissatisfaction consumers told use about.”

Mark Teitell, general manager of UltraViolet, said, “Consumers are looking for a better value proposition to own and collect digital movies and TV shows -- a proposition that provides downloads, streaming and physical copy viewing options which are accessible on multiple platforms.” 

Becoming an UltraViolet licensee will enable companies to implement technical specs; market content, services and products with the UltraViolet name and logo; and make use of a centralized digital rights locker system for consumers' management of their UltraViolet proofs-of-purchase. Licensing is available for companies to participate through one or more of five defined roles: Content provider, retailer, streaming service provider, app/device maker, and download infrastructure/services provider.

While DECE membership is not required to license UltraViolet, DECE currently has more than 70 member companies, including most of the Hollywood studios and manufacturers. They include Fox, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros., BSkyB, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Netflix, Samsung and Vudu.

As Ultraviolet takes this next step toward become a reality, two industry heavyweights, Apple and Disney, remain conspicuously absent from the DECE consortium. Singer and Teitell have expressed confidence that UltraViolet content will be able to be accessed on Apple devices, though at this stage there is currently no indication of iTunes support.

Initial UltraViolet licensees are now integrating with and beta testing the digital rights locker system, which will be a shared cloud. Neustar, a network and digital media interconnectivity provider, was selected by DECE to build and operate the UltraViolet infrastructure.

DECE recognizes that online security is an industry-wide problem, but in addition to its security initiatives, Teitell said that Ultraviolet limits the personal information stored in the cloud to items such as email, password and devices. It doesn't store credit card information, he said.

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