UltraViolet Set for Expansion in Europe

Mark Teitell - P 2013

The digital locker for home entertainment content, supported by film studios and others, will roll out in France and Germany this fall.

LONDON -- Beware, Netflix and Amazon's Lovefilm -- cloud-based storage giant UltraViolet is to mount a big European push this year.

The home entertainment service, which allows DVD and Blu-ray buyers to upload purchases to a digital locker that can then be viewed at home or on the go on multiple devices and shared, is scheduled to roll out across France and Germany starting Sept. 30.

It will also target neighboring continental countries -- think Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands -- although no date has been set.

According to Mark Teitell, general manager and executive director of Digital Entertainment Content System (DECE), the company behind Ultraviolet, there will also be a big push to bolster the service in the U.K., where there are currently about 500,000 account holders.

DECE is a consortium of major Hollywood studios, consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers, network hardware vendors, systems integrators and Digital Rights Management (DRM) vendors.

Teitell, speaking at the PEVE Entertainment 2013 confab in the British capital said Tuesday that the aim is to hit a million users by year end in the U.K., in the wake of the service's launch in late 2011.

In the U.K., the service is supported by content from Universal, Warner Bros., Sony and 20th Century Fox.

U.K. retail giant Tesco, the world's third-largest retailer, is yet to sign up as a retail partner with UltraViolet, but both parties indicated an agreement is being ironed out.

In the U.S., Walmart signing aboard as a retail partner helped bring a spike in UltraViolet membership.

Michael Comish, CEO of Blinkbox/Tesco Digital Entertainment, told Peve Conference delegates that it had been "a matter of timing" that Tesco and UltraViolet hadn't been working together.

"At the moment, Tesco is a massive physical retailer (of entertainment) and a smaller digital one," Comish said. "I expect that to switch around, and we will do everything in line with our customers desires."

The annual two-day conference hosted by U.S. research giant IHS, this year held at the British Museum, included a detailed overview of the global home entertainment markets.

Other speakers on day one included a keynote from Jim Underwood, executive vp worldwide digital and commercial strategy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Underwood talked of new opportunities and how new means of distribution have impacted the business.

He noted the importance of cloud-based ownership, the introduction and growth of UltraViolet and opportunities for physical retailers to play an important role in digital distribution.

Ben Keen, chief analyst and senior director of IHS, kicked off day one by noting that household spends on home video, music and broadband and mobile had all fallen between 2007 and 2012.