Hollywood's cloud based video service, UltraViolet, is in trouble, as Warner Bros' launch of the format is meeting with increasing customer dissatisfaction.
UltraViolet, originally designed by Sony, aims to provide a cloud based digital version of movies for buyers of DVD and Blu-ray's. While on paper this seems like a good plan, the actual implementation of UltraViolet has been left to individual studios, and that's where the problem begins.
For WB, their implementation of UltraViolet relies on the Flixster app (WB purchased Flixster earlier in the year). But what was supposed to be an easy process has turned into a nightmare for users, thanks to the typical Hollywood reaction to new formats: proprietary technology and DRM.
Users who purchased copies of WB's UltraViolet enabled movies, including 'Horrible Bosses', 'Green Lantern', and the newly released Blu-ray mega-hit 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2', have to jump through a series of convoluted hoops to get the UltraViolet version, only to be met with errors, and compatibility problems. The process is so complicated that Warner Bros. has had to release a 2 minute long instructional video on how to use their implementation of UltraViolet. Users have to sign up with an UltraViolet account, and then another Flixster account, link the two accounts together, and then try to download/stream the movie, with many unable to do so. On PCs, users may need to install additional software, such as Adobe Air, to get the process going.
Users are so frustrated with UltraViolet, that they have taken to Amazon to protest the format, with many one-star reviews of the latest Harry Potter movie all to protest about UltraViolet. One user posted "It took me 30 minutes to create accounts and read agreements, 45 minutes to read up on UltraViolet, and I haven't even seen the movie yet! VERY unhappy consumer."
And Flixster's UltraViolet tech support section has been flooded with customer complaints about WB's UltraViolet implementation, so much so that Flixster has been giving away free iTunes vouchers for the UltraViolet enabled movies.
Ironically, Apple is one of the few tech companies not signed up to UltraViolet. Disney is the only other major studios not supporting UltraViolet, as they're pursuing their own version of the same service called KeyChest.
The problem for UltraViolet will compound as more studios release their own implementations of it, which means while users may have just a single UltraViolet account that lists all their movies, the actual method of distribution and playback will differ from studio to studio, adding to the confusion users are already experiencing.