UltraViolet announced a few big new partnerships that should give the fledgling digital distribution system a big boost. Amazon is the first official retail partner, while Samsung will offer disc-to-digital features in its 2012 Blu-Ray players. Bill Carr, executive VP of digital media at Amazon and Tae-Jin Kang, senior VP, media solution center at Samsung, were on hand as part of a roundtable discussion to make the announcements. Unfortunately, there's very little information on Amazon's role as a retail partner; we assume that Amazon will eventually begin selling UltraViolet-compatible movies without needing to buy a physical disc (as is currently the case).
But Mark Teitell, executive director at the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, told us this deal was closed just a few days ago and that they knew nothing more than beyond that initial announcement. Bill Carr did make it very clear that Amazon has always felt strongly about consumers being able to access their purchased digital content across a variety of devices and that they want to provide the most options and choices for consumers, so they'll continue to offers discs to purchase, digital downloads to own, and video on demand / movie rentals as well.
As for Samsung's disc-to-digital system, consumers will be able to drop a disc into a 2012 Samsung Blu-Ray player, choose disc-to-digital, and then pick what kind of file they want (standard or high definition). It sounds like this service is free, but there is a "nominal fee" if you upgrade a DVD to high-definition. This technology is powered by software from Flixster and Rovi, who announced disc-to-digital yesterday (though it wasn't clear who would take advantage of it). Once this process is complete, your movie should be available in UltraViolet's digital locker for you to stream and download to supported devices. There are demos available of disc-to-digital on the show floor at CES, so we'll be looking for them and will let you know our impressions.
Executives from four of the five major movie studios (Sony, Fox, Universal, and Warner) involved in UltraViolet were on hand, as well, and there was a lot of discussion about UltraViolet's stumbles as it launched as well as its future. To date, 750,000 UltraViolet accounts have been registered in the 89 days since launch — the company is claiming over one million users, since UltraViolet accounts support multiple members as part of one "household." The studio executives made it quite clear that they're looking for UltraViolet to revive movie sales and that rentals are not in the immediate future, although they wouldn't rule it out. They also talked about the improvements UltraViolet has made, including the elimination of multiple accounts needed to set up the service. However, they also defended the service, noting that having to register for two accounts wasn't really that major a roadblock (while glossing over other problems people had, like the lack of Android and iOS support at launch). Apparently there's a major marketing push planned for the year, and the DECE hopes that by the end of 2012 UltraViolet is fully mainstream — so get ready to hear a lot more about this new standard for digital distribution.