UltraViolet Adds Streaming Access to DVD and Blu-Ray

Studios, retailers, tech companies team up to save sales

With consumers watching movies on everything from their smartphones to their iPads, buying a DVD version that can only be played on a TV set or computer seems pretty limiting these days. A group of movie studios, tech companies, and retailers are hoping to tackle the problem of home-entertainment sales with a new cloud-based service called UltraViolet.

The consortium, called Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem LLC, spent the last three years creating UltraViolet, which offers consumers online and mobile access to movies purchased on DVD or Blu-ray. Movies are stored in a “digital locker” so that people who buy an UltraViolet-enabled copy of a movie will also be able to watch it on their computer, iPad, iPhone, or other mobile devices.

UltraViolet's creators—comprising 75 companies including big tech names like Microsoft and Intel, streaming sites Netflix and Vudu, retailers like Best Buy, and movie studios Paramount, Universal, Sony, and Warner Bros.—are hoping that they can boost home-entertainment sales and make up for the declining DVD market.

But according to The Wall Street Journal, the service still has some major drawbacks. Setting up an account is apparently a tedious process—apart from finding and entering a 12-digit code from the disk case and creating an UltraViolet account, users will also need to have another account from a separate online service like Flixster to be able to watch movies.

In addition, UltraViolet hasn’t gotten major industry players Disney (which is reportedly creating its own cloud service called KeyChest) or Apple to sign on, meaning that customers can’t watch Disney movies, or buy or stream UltraViolet-enabled movies through the iTunes store.

The UltraViolet format will launch publicly today with the DVD and Blu-ray release of Warner Bros.’ Horrible Bosses, followed by Green Lantern on Friday. More UltraViolet-enabled films will come out in the next few weeks.