What is UltraViolet™ and why should you care? - High-Def Digest Forums
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Old 06-01-2011, 02:04 PM
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Default What is UltraViolet™ and why should you care?

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UltraViolet is the most important media service you've probably never heard of – a grand plan for Hollywood to get everything right that the music business has got wrong.

All the major studios are members of the DECE consortium behind UV, apart from Disney (You can probably guess why). Cable companies and telcos are already members, including BT and BSkyB. TV manufacturers will build UV-ready sets, and most mobile devices should also support it. Netflix, LoveFilm and FilmFlex are also members. Last week Tesco said it will join them and launch a UV-compatible video-on-demand service.

So what's special about UV, then? Unlike most grand plans that emanate from the music business, this one is punter-friendly ... and very ambitious indeed. It's really a wholesale platform, designed so that if you have a (free) UV account, you'll pay once and then watch a movie anywhere.


If you buy a BluRay or DVDs that have a UV logo, you'll be able to watch it instantly on any UV-capable device – for example, stopping off at a mate's house on the way home, even if he doesn't have a BluRay player. The optical media you've just bought becomes your instant backup disc. Or, if you go down the streaming route, you'll be able to burn movies to a DVD if you wish – "unlimited copies" are going to be approved.

You pay only for what you use, and you'll never lose anything. Six users can share a single UV account, and there is a cap of 12 devices per account, apparently, which is not a problem for most people but might cause ruction in houses with teenagers.

While the music industry used DRM as a nuisance mechanism, creating artificial friction, UV uses it to allow you to do things you couldn't do before. Or at least, that's the design goal: trying to take the friction out of watching movies on digital equipment. This is smart; instead of trying to prevent copying, it's designed to take away most of the necessity of making copies - the personal freedom to watch something anywhere. "You may have kids away at school, or other relatives living with you or elsewhere," the UV blurb promises, so you can "buy" them a rental they can watch anywhere. The goal is growing the market.

It's taken a long time to get everything in place. Announced in 2008, the consortium launched last July, and nailed down its specs this January, with a US launch is expected this year. The specs entail a universal binary format and an umbrella format for DRM schemes (five are supported) which should be transparent to the user.

Tech sources say it uses adaptive streaming, rewarding customers who have a decent, well-managed ISP. (YouView also uses adaptive streaming) Hopefully if UV takes off, this should cause a shake out in the ISP market, with the capped and congested operators losing business – as they should.

Tesco makes a lot of money selling entertainment on plastic, but is enthusiastic about the idea of selling licences instead – which is what UV is about.

"When you buy a music CD you're not supposed to rip it, you're actually breaking copyright by doing that. But the masses are doing that. So we can either ignore it and pretend it doesn’t happen, or acknowledge it and make it part of the proposition," Tesco entertainment chief Rob Salter said in an interview recently – which is a must-read.

Two weeks ago, Tesco bought VoD service Blinkbox. Whether it keeps the branding, or calls it (say) Tesco Movies Anywhere remains to be seen.

Next week Apple unveils its pre-emptive strike, iCloud, and it's hard not to see both doing well at least initially. It has to be very convenient – minimising the fiddling about with PINs or passwords – and ubiquitous. In the long run, the most customer-friendly offering with the best content will win out. If Apple's service won't support non-Apple devices, but UV can truly run anywhere (using iOS apps as a conduit on Apple hardware), then UV ultimately looks like a decent bet.

Not that you should ever bet on anything in the entertainment industry – they'll only let you down. But it is unusual to report they're thinking along the right lines for a change.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06...traviolet_wtf/
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Old 06-01-2011, 02:51 PM
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Watch out for those new UV rays!

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Each year at NAB I focus either on the trade floor or conference sessions. This year the draw was the conference to satisfy my yearning for more information regarding media trends on the Internet and how they will affect the evolution of broadcasting.

Living in a highly regulated world as broadcasting does, with its small number of players, change moves slowly. There seems to be less room for entrepreneurial ventures. While the consumer is considered, (s)he certainly doesn’t (yet) drive the business as we see in other industries.

Times have changed and younger generations (and more increasingly older generations) are saying “to heck with that, let’s check out some other options”. The consumer is slowly but surely taking the reigns of control as to how this new world will play out. Look no further for proof than at the adoption and growth of Netflix, Hulu and many other VOD providers on the Internet.

These providers are typically subscription-based; pay a monthly fee to get access to any content within their library. There are also many so-called “free” options which put parents into shock and awe at how their offspring can find them. Looking at cable bills becomes irksome when they know their children have been spending free time watching TV content streaming on PCs from those “free” providers.

UltraViolet
Among the new offerings and business models that caught my eye at NAB2010 and again at this year’s convention was UltraViolet.

What is UltraViolet?
The broad stroke is that UV will allow consumers to purchase digital content and watch it wherever and whenever. It is a combination of a new format standard for content distributors and manufacturers, along with a video storage locker and rights management outlet within the Internet cloud.

Though not the same, similar online models include Apple’s iTunes and Disney’s KeyChest (in development), as well, KOKO e-books.

UV a New Standard
For the past couple of years, the consortium known as Digital Entertainment Content EcoSystem (DECE) has been endeavouring to develop a user-friendly digital standard for collecting movies and TV shows.

DECE includes over 60 cross-industry members and growing, including Adobe, Akamai Technologies, Best Buy, BSkyB, Cineplex Entertainment, Cisco, Comcast, Cox Communications, Dell, Dolby Laboratories, Fox Entertainment, HP, IBM, Intel, LG, Lionsgate, Microsoft, NBC Universal, Netflix, Neustar, Panasonic, Paramount Pictures, SONY and Toshiba, to name only the more prominent members.

The consortium’s new digital media specifications, logo program and interoperable digital rights locker will enable consumers to purchase digital video content from a choice of online retailers and play it on a variety of branded devices and platforms from different manufacturers.

How Will UV Work?
DECE believes that consumers like and need to have collections. The consumers’ video rights collection will be housed and managed within an UltraViolet digital rights locker and, from what I have read, Akamai will be one of the delivery platforms.

Each household will create an account for up to six family members who can access the household’s UltraViolet movies, TV shows and other entertainment. This can be done via participating online retailers, Internet streaming providers and devices with the UV logo. Per household account, you can register up to 12 devices.

The consumer will be able to download content to an UltraViolet-enabled device or, if preferred, to stream (playout) content from one’s collection (within their UltraViolet online locker) to a set-top box, PC, web-connected devices (Internet TV, Blu-ray) and mobile apps for smartphones and tablets.

Content rights can be on a rental basis (e.g., one run within a household per family member) or own-with-rights in perpetuity. The advantage to own in perpetuity is that you can remove and add devices as time goes on and technology changes, with an unlimited number of runs.

Availability
The UltraViolet consumer account system is targeted for its U.S. launch at mid-2011 allowing for download to existing devices and, as well, streaming services. Canada and the UK are to follow later this year. In early 2012, we will likely begin to see the first devices designed with the UltraViolet standard, identified with the UV logo.

Possibilities
This may just have the potential to reduce or eliminate the need for traditional TV distribution layers. Perhaps it may evolve as a direct to consumer distribution channel for first run TV content.

The current content model is the content producer (via distribution house or direct) sells the rights to many distribution channels (broadcaster, OTT, wireless, retail) taking into consideration geography, delivery method and playout device in their rights agreement. The broadcaster also goes through another layer of distribution via cable and satellite (and associated costs to the consumer).

As I see it in the UltraViolet model, the content producer (via distribution house or direct) sells the rights to the consumer via many online retail outlets with the ability to download or stream/playout (delivery method) on a wide range of devices.

This could open up a whole lot of possibilities, including a more cost effective way for the smaller independent production companies to distribute their content. Internet providers will also be affected. Perhaps they are seeing the light already as they try to position themselves for a pay per usage model.

The key success factor, of course, is if it will truly be user friendly and if the consumer will adopt it.
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Old 06-01-2011, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by mikemorel View Post
Well, there's your problem . . .

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DECE believes that consumers like and need to have collections.
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Old 06-01-2011, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Lee Stewart View Post
Well, there's your problem . . .
My problem? I don't follow.
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Old 06-01-2011, 03:21 PM
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""The key success factor, of course, is if it will truly be user friendly and if the consumer will adopt it.""

If the UV system is as cumbersome as that UV description this will fail. It doesn't sound user friendly.
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Old 06-01-2011, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by mikemorel View Post
My problem? I don't follow.
Not "your" problem. It's the inaccurate thinking of the DECE.
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Old 06-01-2011, 03:33 PM
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Or, if you go down the streaming route, you'll be able to burn movies to a DVD if you wish – "unlimited copies" are going to be approved.
Nice of them to make piracy even easier.
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Old 06-01-2011, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Lee Stewart View Post
Well, there's your problem . . .
DECE is right consumer purchasing of media is a multi billion dollar industry someone (many) are still buying and collecting, if sales are in the billions each year...although down from years past.
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Old 06-01-2011, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by towergrove View Post
DECE is right consumer purchasing of media is a multi billion dollar industry someone (many) are still buying and collecting, if sales are in the billions each year...although down from years past.
Yeas after year, sell through OD drops. And year affter year, rental doesn't even with all the changes in the marketplace.

The fact is, consumers just aren't collecting movies like they use to. The 28 day delay hasn't changed that.

Next try is UV.
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Old 06-01-2011, 09:57 PM
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MSOs May Give UltraViolet Early Traction

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May 26, 2011 – New strategies taking shape among cable MSOs looking to benefit from the soon-to-launch UltraViolet platform could add much-needed marketing clout to the Hollywood-backed approach to selling movies electronically.

Operators aren’t speaking publicly about their intentions, but conversations with industry figures point to mounting conviction that UltraViolet represents a way for cable companies to include support for buying and accessing movies as a complement to an ever-more-buoyant VOD rental business and a boost to nascent TV Everywhere (TVE) strategies. “There’s a lot of discussion among UltraViolet stakeholders about the role of service providers,” says Brad Hunt, president, Digital Media Directions, LLC, a consulting firm with close ties to the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem consortium that’s spearheading UltraViolet.

UltraViolet provides an authentication service and account management system that allows consumers to access content from multiple registered devices over multiple service outlets operating on broadband and mobile networks. Once they have an UltraViolet account, consumers can purchase any content from an UltraViolet supplier with assurance they’ll be able to access it wherever they are.

As explained by Hunt and others, cable operators and other providers of subscription TV services will be able to acquire licenses from individual consortium members that allow them to stream movies and TV shows to subscribers who are authenticated as owners of that content in their accounts on the UltraViolet Digital Rights Locker. DECE is providing an open API (application programming interface) that allows any Web-enabled storefront or service to integrate access to the digital rights locker into its own consumer offering.

This would add to the convenience of ownership for cable subscribers, compared to UltraViolet members who don’t have access to such services. For the cable service subscribers there would be no requirement that end devices be equipped to work with the UltraViolet file format or UltraViolet-certified digital rights management (DRM) systems, so long as the operator’s conditional access or DRM system meets content suppliers’ protection requirements.

This opens a path for subscribers who don’t own Blu-ray players to access high-quality HD versions of their purchased content on their TV sets. And it would allow those subscribers to access content on devices served by the operator’s TVE platform, whether or not those devices were UltraViolet certified.

Moreover, the ability of cable subscribers to stream content they own that’s hosted on MSO servers overcomes the lack of streaming support on the UltraViolet platform itself. In the initial going UltraViolet will only support downloads to devices.

As with all concepts that look good conceptually, the question comes down to what the licensing terms will be. “We see some real upside for us,” says a senior cable executive, speaking on background. “But the benefits to the studios, given their need to push UltraViolet as the universal EST (electronic sell-through) platform, are potentially much greater when you look at where they’re at coming out of the starting gate. So it comes down to what’s our piece if we’re going to put our marketing muscle behind it?”

On the other hand, cable might need the UltraViolet tie-in more than some people realize, given the growing competition from Web-based movies services. Netflix is gaining access to earlier release content in deals with various providers. Amazon through its Instant Video service gives users multi-device streaming access to movies or TV shows they buy or rent. Google’s YouTube is reported by the Wall Street Journal to be negotiating with studios to expand its on-demand play with newer movies.

By helping to drive consumer adoption of the single-account concept and greatly expanding the convenience of cable subscribers’ access to their UltraViolet purchases, cable operators would be creating a value-add that raises the bar against these other players. The real question for all sides is just how much value will users see in the ability to buy content over EST outlets when rental release windows are getting ever shorter and no one knows whether the habit of building personal video libraries will transfer to the non-physical realm of a cloud-based library.

DECE, which has not announced a launch date for UltraViolet other than to say it will be midyear, will market UltraViolet-labeled movies and TV shows for purchase through affiliated retail outlets, Web sites and kiosks. The studios are counting on the single-account convenience and multi-device accessibility to cloud-stored content to reinvigorate digital sales in the wake of the slowdown in DVD purchases, which in 2010 grew at an anemic rate of 30 percent compared to 130 percent in 2008. And 2011 is looking worse with the Digital Entertainment Group reporting that first quarter sales of home entertainment packaged goods such as DVDs and CDs, at $2.08 billion, were down 20 percent from a year earlier.

Retailers, who hope to leverage UltraViolet to help breathe new life into Blu-ray player sales as well as to add incentives to connected device purchases, are seen as key to getting consumers engaged with the EST concept. One possibility would entail offerings of free movie disks tied to UltraViolet accounts with Blu-ray player purchases. The pitch will be that the buyer and up to five other family members who are part of the buyer’s household account can access the movies on any UltraViolet-certified device.

But because they’ll only be able to get the content from the cloud via progressive download, they won’t be able to access their digital locker content on storage-deprived connected TVs, notes Albhy Galuten, vice president for digital media strategy at Sony Network Entertainment “Connected TVs work with streaming but not download,” Galuten says. “Smartphones, gaming platforms, PCs – they’re all capable of receiving UltraViolet content.”

But not necessarily at the outset. It will depend on whether devices are equipped to adapt to the UltraViolet file format via software downloads or will have to be adjusted at the factory. “There are not a lot of devices that can play that file,” Hunt notes. That includes Blu-ray players.

The picture should start to change in 2012, says Wendy Aylsworth, senior vice president of technology at Warner Bros. “There’s a wide array of manufacturers who are getting ready to produce devices,” Aylsworth says, “Our hope is that by early next year they will start rolling out, but it will take some time.”

In trying to build the EST business studios have insisted that UltraViolet be a platform for purchases, not rentals, although, as previously reported (January, p. 1), rental models appear to be inevitable. “EST is only one model of many,” Galuten says. In fact, he notes, advertising and subscriptions as well as rentals should be seen as important revenue drivers for the platform. “As DECE rolls out it should be possible to increase its value, whether by advertising, rentals or subscription models,” he says.

But, with release windows into the electronic rental market shrinking, the studios have to be careful with any rental strategies on UltraViolet if they want to generate EST revenues, Aylsworth says. “Availability of content becomes a strategic notion,” she says. “You purchase content that’s not readily available because you care enough about it if that’s the only way to get it.”.

There’s a lot of disagreement on that point. Many people argue that people frequently collect movies because they’ve had a chance to see them and want to own them. “I don’t think everything is going to move to streaming and that ownership and local storage goes away,” says Brad Hunt. But, he adds, it would make sense to support a “rent-to-own” model on UltraViolet.

“Rent to own is not being pursued right now,” Hunt says. “But maybe it’s something to think about. Studios have the challenge of getting people to buy. People are used to renting through VOD and Netflix.”

A rent-to-own model would leverage the electronic distribution for rental viewing at a price matched to the release window while encouraging people to purchase the disc for storage in their libraries, possibly at an incremental charge that would be lower than a straight purchase without the rental. UltraViolet would give buyers the opportunity to continue accessing the purchased movie through the cloud, but owning the actual disc is likely to be an important component to EST success.

“We need to get to encouraging collecting,” Hunt says. “The virtual world of files is not very satisfying next to owning a movie library. Rent-to-own might be one way to move people back to buying movies.”

With Disney, Apple and Amazon conspicuously absent from UlraViolet and each of the DECE studios mindful of their need to support other outlets such as Amazon and Netflix the time is ripe to get consumers acclimated to the advantages of UltraViolet. But the challenges to doing so quickly are obviously not trivial.

For example, getting streaming up and running would seem to be a logical thing to do, as noted by Galuten. “It hasn’t been publicly stated, but a reasonable person could suppose that DECE will be addressing the issues of streaming to a broad swath of devices,” he says.

But, says Hunt, it’s not a trivial step given the fact that streaming wasn’t accounted for in the initial format development effort. “It could pose problems,” he says.

The fact that streaming access can be enabled by partners like cable operators who obtain licenses to stream from their own platforms could be a major stopgap in the effort to gain greater penetration for UltraViolet. The same goes for the fact that, with VOD offering rental opportunities, cable operators could market a purchase option as a follow-up to rentals, overcoming the absence of a rent-to-buy option in the current UltraViolet business model. This could be an especially strong option for viewers of the Home Premium early-release service which cable operators will be rolling out in the months ahead.
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Clearly, with Comcast, CableLabs and Cox among the 60 plus members of DECE, the stage is set for some measure of cable involvement. “We definitely see the advantages of the convenience we can provide our subscribers through UltraViolet,” says the cable executive quoted earlier.

Along with the immediate business benefits to operators, there’s a big technical gain to be had for their TVE strategies if the UltraViolet format gains traction in the device world. That eventuality would help operators overcome the costs and hassles of providing content protection in all the incompatible modes now required to serve different brands and generations of devices, says Marty Roberts, vice president of sales and marketing at thePlatform, the Comcast unit that’s deeply involved in supporting TVE service development.

“The hope on the horizon is what will happen if we see traction with UltraViolet,” he says. “They’ve mandated that everything move to a common file and encryption format. If everyone uses a common encryption format we’ll all get to a better place where DRMs are competing on their merits rather than on which devices they’re compatible with.”

The real measures people should be looking for in weighing DRMs are things like how many licenses they can offer per second, how they handle multiple tenant scenarios, their ability to cover points of unencrypted content exposure on different device architectures, how they take care of protecting metadata and subscriber authentication information that’s stored on devices, etc. “We’re really excited about the promise of UltraViolet,” Roberts says.
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