We're going to hear a lot about Hollywood's UltraViolet centralized-DRM locker system at CES this year — after a rough launch with just a few movies on the Warner-owned Flixster service, the studios are planning a big push that'll try and live up to the system's promise of buy-anywhere-play-anywhere movies. A big part of that is expanding distribution, and a company called Neustar Media is making it easy for retailers to get on board with UltraViolet: its new Catalyst storefront is basically a ready-to-go UltraViolet retail site, complete with content licensing deals to get the stores off the ground. Retailers can skin Catalyst any way they want and add their own content to the mix, or they can just leave it stock. There's also a player app for consumers that works across devices; it's smart enough to look for previously-downloaded movies on your local network rather than pulling from the cloud every time.
Neustar actually developed the underlying UltraViolet coordinator software, so it's a natural step for the company to work on distribution as well; retailers would otherwise need the technical expertise to support the entire UltraViolet framework, complete with the five different DRM systems within it. Catalyst lets retailers skip all of that work and go straight to selling movies and competing against other retailers — Neustar VP George Myers told us he thinks 2012 will be "the year of the retailer," with lots of competition around digital media pricing and margins as the industry grows beyond just Apple and Amazon. According to Myers, UltraViolet will allow "someone to come in and disrupt everyone" with a storefront that isn't tied to a single ecosystem but rather an industry-wide platform.
Of course, one major advantage both Apple and Amazon offer right now is the ability to rent movies, which UltraViolet doesn't support — Myers says that UltraViolet is currently "missing the market" on rentals and that Catalyst is ready to support them as soon as support is built into the system. We'll see if there's any news around rentals at CES and take some time to play with Catalyst while we're at it.