Ultraviolet, a cloud movie locker once hailed as Hollywood’s best bet to get consumers hooked on digital movies, is shuttering. The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), the industry consortium that has been tasked with running Ultraviolet, will shut down the service on July 31.
DECE will start to inform its users of the wind-down this Thursday, and is advising users to not delete their Ultraviolet movie libraries. Users should instead make sure that their libraries are connected to the service of at least one retailer, which they can then use to access their movies and TV shows going forward, according to an FAQ document that is slated to be published on Ultraviolet’s website on Thursday morning.
DECE president Wendy Aylsworth told Variety in an exclusive interview this week that the decision to discontinue Ultraviolet was a response to the evolution of the market for online entertainment. “The marketplace for collecting entertainment content was very small when Ultraviolet started,” she said. “It was siloed into walled gardens at the time.”
Since then, services had become more comprehensive, giving fans of movies and TV shows more options to access and collect their titles. Aylsworth acknowledged that there has also been a move toward subscription services, but said ownership of movie and TV show collections would continue to play a significant role for the industry going forward. “It’s very clear to us that it is on very sound footing,” she said.
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Ultraviolet launched in 2011 with support from all of the major Hollywood studios except Disney. The service also had buy-in from Lionsgate and other independent studios, and struck partnerships with online retailers, including Walmart’s Vudu service, FandangoNow, and some of the online services run by studios like Sony Pictures.
Consumers could use Ultraviolet to access digital titles purchased from one retailer through the apps of other participating retailers, and codes included with DVDs and Blu-Rays made it possible to unlock digital copies in addition to physical media bought in stores. Some retailers also offered consumers a chance to upconvert their existing DVD collection to HD digital media for a fee.
Ultraviolet currently has more than 30 million users, who collectively store more than 300 million movies and TV shows in their cloud libraries.
However, Disney’s decision to instead develop its own cloud locker service, dubbed Disney Movies Anywhere, long represented a major roadblock for Ultraviolet. Some major digital retailers, including iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, never joined Ultraviolet because of the market’s fragmentation.
When Disney relaunched its cloud locker service as Movies Anywhere in late 2017, opening it up to other industry players, some of the studios previously associated with Ultraviolet decided to jump ship. Last year, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Lionsgate stopped distributing their new releases as Ultraviolet titles. Movies Anywhere is now being supported by most major studios and retailers.
Still, Aylsworth didn’t want the end of Ultraviolet to be painted as a response to Movies Anywhere’s growing momentum. The decision to end the service “doesn’t really have anything to do with Movies Anywhere,” she said. Aylsworth added that the future of the DECE is yet to be decided.
Vudu, the biggest retailer associated with Ultraviolet, was quick to assure its customers that they didn’t have to fear losing their movie collections when the cloud locker service closes.
“Customers who use Vudu to watch, rent, or buy movies and TV shows will not be impacted by the discontinuation of the Ultraviolet platform,” said Vudu vice president Scott Blanksteen. “These customers will continue to be able to enjoy Vudu content as they have been and continue to access any and all movies and TV shows they have saved in their Vudu library, even after the shutdown of the Ultraviolet service.”
Blanksteen added that customers of other video platforms could always link their Ultraviolet accounts to Vudu to access their collections through the retailer’s apps going forward.