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CES: Samsung and Amazon join UltraViolet supporters this year

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 11 Jan 2012 15:57

CES: Samsung and Amazon join UltraViolet supporters this year This year Samsung will begin selling a pair of Blu-ray players with support for the UltraViolet (UVVU) rights locker system favored by the majority of major Hollywood studios.
Currently the only retailer who actually supports UltraViolet is Warner Bros owned Flixster. The Samsung Blu-ray players will interface with both the UltraViolet and Flixster services using a recently announced Rovi solution.

Basically it will work like this. First you must purchase a qualifying title on disc. When you put it in your Blu-ray player, you can register it with your UltraViolet account and pay a so-far unspecified "nominal fee" to access it through Flixster.

The obvious problem with this system, aside from Flixster's problems getting customers access to their UltraViolet registered content, is that you must pay a second time to watch content you have already purchased on disc.

Warner content is an exception for now. Currently they are offering UltraViolet copies of their movies for three years through Flixster. Of course, if other retailers decide to participate in the UltraViolet program they aren't obligated to match Warner's offer.

One retailer who appears to be preparing to start some time soon is Amazon. Speaking on a panel at CES on Tuesday, Amazon Executive Vice President of Digital Media Bill Carr announced they have signed a deal with one studio to sell UltraViolet downloads. He didn't specify which studio it was.

A question which comes immediately to mind is whether the availability of UltraViolet through multiple outlets makes things more or less confusing for consumers. On one hand, UltraViolet downloads are supposed to be playable on any UltraViolet compatible player.

Sounds simple enough, but it gets more confusing after that. The UltraViolet service only covers licensing. You must still purchase your copy from a third party and different sellers may have different prices and different terms.

Here is what the official UltraViolet FAQ has to say:

  • UltraViolet retailers are required to give you three free downloads in the first year after purchase. (After that they are allowed to charge for more downloads or continue to provide them for free. It's up to them.)
  • Once you download an UltraViolet file you can play it forever without being connected to the Internet. It's impossible for studios to track your offline playing habits.
  • You can copy the file to any other UltraViolet player you own. (In case it's not blindingly obvious, there's no charge for copying.)
  • UltraViolet retailers are required to give you unlimited streaming for free the first year. After that they may or may not charge for additional streams.

In other words, one retailer may choose to let you download three times in the first year and none in subsequent years. Another might offer threee the first year and one each year afterward. A third could offer five downloads the first year and one more in any subsequent year.

But really, the biggest problem with the whole idea behind UltraViolet is that it's more complicated and more expensive than just making a back on your own.

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