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Digital locker UltraViolet launches in UK, next stop Canada

A number of companies have signed up to UltraViolet (UV) in UK, Warner Bros’ first distributor to offer UV-enabled film in UK.

The digital rights locker UltraViolet, which could revolutionise the way film and TV content is consumed for home entertainment and reduce piracy, is set to launch in the UK.

UltraViolet, based on the ‘buy once, play anywhere’ concept, launches in the UK two months after its US debut. Warner Bros’ will launch the first UltraViolet (UV) enabled film in the UK – Final Destination 5 – on 26th December 2011. Following that release, all of Warner Bros’ new theatrical releases in the UK will be UV-enabled.

Confirmed UK UltraViolet licensees include Sony, Warner Bros, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Intel, Samsung Electronics, Cyberlink, MediaNavi and Rovi. These companies will be able to market UltraViolet content, services and products and use the UltraViolet account management and digital rights library system. Additional licensees will become known in the coming weeks.

UltraViolet, which many supporters of the system hope will become an industry standard, is a cloud-based technology that enables video libraries to be stored in one place, and to be watched at anytime across a number of devices including TVs, PCs, mobile phones, iPhones, iPads, and iPods using third party apps. Essentially, UltraViolet is DVD for the internet.

While diverse industry and technology players including five of the six major studios, Lionsgate, Roadshow, Netflix, LoveFilm, BBC Worldwide, Tesco, FilmFlex, Microsoft, Nokia and Panasonic are all members of the 75-plus strong Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), which manages UltraViolet, many have yet to confirm their participation as licensees in the library system. Disney is the only studio not in the DECE consortium and has launched a rival locker called Keychest.Crucially, Apple and Amazon have yet to announce the extent to which they will incorporate the service.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures have announced the first UltraViolet-enabled titles in the US, including Warner Bros’ Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern.

Following the UK launch, the DECE plans to begin rolling-out UltraViolet in Canada. Other territories will be announced in 2012 and 2013.

DECE General Manager Mark Teitell was in London this week to discuss the rollout. He told Screen that it is too early to tell exactly what the consumer response to UltraViolet is in the US.

At present, UltraViolet only operates as a film purchase service (EST – Electronic Sell Through), there is no rental or subscription option. Going forward there is expected to be an option to upgrade previously purchased physical DVDs to UltraViolet. Any additional cost for UV content will be determined by retailers.

Clearinghouse Neustar will operate UltraViolet’s web portal and act as the DECEs coordinator of the service. Participating studios hope that Neustar’s encoding system will lead to reduced physical and digital piracy.

On the launch of Final Destination 5 on UltraViolet, Chris Law, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Warner Bros. Television and Digital Distribution UK said: “By making Final Destination 5 and all future WB theatrical new release titles UV enabled, we are offering consumers a simple and more compelling way to purchase, manage, access and share their movie collections digitally. This is just the first step, I’m confident we’ll be seeing more and more compatible content and services launching in the coming months”.

Mark Teitell, General Manager DECE, commented on the UK launch: “The UK home video environment is a vibrant and evolving marketplace, where consumers are demanding a more advanced and open alternative to the closed video distribution systems being offered today. The UK launch of UltraViolet represents another key step in the development and roll-out of this new ecosystem, which provides consumers with a superior value proposition for owning, collecting and sharing digital movies and TV shows. We’re looking forward to working with the inaugural licensees we announced today to begin introducing UltraViolet to consumers in the UK over the coming months.”

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