Ultraviolet. A solution to a problem no-one had.

Let me take you back a few years. We had DVD and Blu-Ray players were just becoming affordable.


Great we can buy either a Blu-Ray or a DVD. Now for many people they may have had a Blu-Ray player in the living room, but unlikely that they did in any other room of the house, but they might have had a DVD player there. So the only way to legitimately watch the same movie in both rooms would be to purchase a separate Blu-Ray and DVD copy.

The studios caught onto this and started offering ‘Double Play’ packs which included a Blu-Ray copy and a DVD copy for not much more money than the DVD copy alone. Great news and a good solution to a problem many people had.

Enter digital media

Then along came digital formats. We could go to iTunes and purchase a digital downloaded copy of a movie and watch it on our computer, iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. Unfortunately many people didn’t, and still don’t have an Apple TV so they can’t easily watch their digital copies on their home TV, and so need to purchase the movie more than once.

Once for the iOS devices, and once for the home cinema system.

The studios caught on again and started offering ‘Triple Play’ packs which included a Blu-Ray copy, a DVD copy and a digital iTunes or Google Play digital edition.

Again this is great as we can now enjoy our movie in multiple ways across many devices.

Many of us in the world also don’t have super fast broadband connections so the digital copies included with the ‘Triple Play’ packs saved a massive download in many cases too. (some required a download, and some included the copy directly on disk).

Personally my home cinema setup includes an iTunes media library connected to an Apple TV. So this was a perfect setup for me, I got my Blu-Ray copy and I got a digital copy for Apple TV and my iPad as well.

Enter Ultraviolet

Apparently that wasn’t good enough for consumers, we needed a new way of watching digital copies. iTunes, the standard way of managing digital media for anyone with an iOS device… simply wasn’t good enough. Even though it’s designed by the world’s biggest company.

So they invented a new digital locker style system called ‘Ultraviolet’. Basically it’s a cloud storage of movies you have purchased. An Ultraviolet code comes with your Blu-Ray or DVD. You redeem it, you can download or stream the copy from an Ultraviolet authorised application.

Sounds great, in theory.

In practice is really isn’t as great. So if I have an iPad I want to watch this movie on, out and about.

I’ll sync it with iTunes. Oh I can’t, it doesn’t work with iTunes.

I’ll download the Flixster app that’s required to view the movie and stream it. Oh I can’t because I only have a WiFi iPad, and even if I didn’t data caps would soon run out on HD movie streams.

I’ll download the movie in Flixter. Ok that works, takes quite a few hours because my connection is only a few megabits per second.

Oh no, I’m now running out of space on my device. Ok I’ll delete a few movies from Flixster app on my iPad and watch them later.

Oops I’ve accidentally deleted a movie I still watched to watch. Ok I’ll sync it again. Oh no, I can’t because there is no way to sync movies from another location, such as iTunes with Ultraviolet. I have to spend a few hours downloading it again.

Never mind, I’ll stream it at home on my Apple TV. Nope I can’t do that, Flixster doesn’t have an app for Apple TV. Is that Apple’s fault, is it Flixster’s, is it Ultraviolet’s? As a consumer, I really, really, don’t care. I just want it to work!

Ok I can stream it from my iOS device via Airplay to Apple TV. Now I have a fragmented movie library. Some always in my Apple TV where I can choose what I watch to watch at any point and some I have to remember are on Flixster and grab my iPad to stream to Apple TV on my slow internet connection

The problem

The problem is the Ultraviolet solution is simply NOT better than the previous implementations. It’s a badly thought through system that just makes life more difficult for consumers.

I know why they invented Ultraviolet. It’s to prevent piracy. How’d that work out for you?

So now we have a solution designed to combat piracy, but the battle has already been lost. DRM (digital locks designed to only let you perform certain actions on files) only harm legitimate customers, not the pirate!

The Solution

There’s really only two solutions to this problem

  1. Abandon Ultraviolet as It. Just. Doesn’t. Work and go back to offering iTunes/Google Play digital copies.
  2. Abandon Ultraviolet and offer DRM free copies to work with any device a customer wants to use. They bought it, why are you restricting them from watching it?

The battle for piracy is already lost, make digital copies DRM free and you might just find MORE people purchase your digital copies instead.

The biggest issue for me now is, I watch movies more on Apple TV and iPad than Blu-Ray now. Not offering an iTunes copy now means I’m not likely to purchase ANY Blu-Rays for the foreseeable future!

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