Additional parts may be required with new digital form
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 23:10
On the movie shelves at stores across the country, a conversion is taking place. Unlike the switch to DVD – when VHS players became obsolete overnight and the DVD became the new way to watch movies – this one is smaller.
If one were to check the shelves at a store for the new releases of movies such as The Avengers, they would discover it is released in a few different ways: DVD, DVD and Blu-Ray combo with a 3D DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download bundle. The Avengers is one of the few movies that has not switched over to the new format, UltraViolet, which is replacing the traditional digital downloads. Digital Downloads are codes that customers can use to download an iTunes or Windows Media copy of the movie that they buy in the DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download pack. Having the movie as a computer file allows a customer to play it on their computer and/or Apple devices such as the iPod. However, movie studios are moving away from the Digital Downloads in favor of UltraViolet.
What is UltraViolet and why is it bad for consumers, you might ask? UltraViolet is a computer file of a movie, like the iTunes and Windows Media copies previously available. Unlike those digital forms, UltraViolet cannot be played on iTunes or Windows; it can only be played on the Flixster app. This requirement creates an interesting set of problems.
First, when a customer pays premium prices for devices such as iPads, iPods and members of the Droid family, they do so with the understanding that all of their media needs will be met by the service. iPod users buy the latest release knowing that they can load it with music, movies and games from the iTunes store. However, when someone buys the sets that include computer-ready copies of the film, it is a nasty shock when they discover that they also have to purchase and download an app to play the movie on a device that was made to play videos and other media. The worst part is that the movie studios still release their films on the iTunes store, a whole other digital format.
Now, the decision for movie studios to keep doing business with Apple raises some questions. If the studios do not want to share their profits with Apple on the DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download sets, why do they still do business with them? This question becomes even more troubling, when one considers comments from Chief Technology Officer of Sony Pictures Mitch Singer, who is supporting the conversion to UltraViolet.
“We've built the next generation of an internationally standardized media product,” Singer said.
He says that UltraViolet is to computer files of movies what DVD is to VHS, meaning the the download codes available in the DVD combo pack will soon be sold at garage sales. But Ultraviolet shows a lack of confidence by still sharing the profits with Apple on iTunes releases. If UltraViolet is the way to go, then the studios should pull all of their movies from iTunes and other online stores and make them only available through the UltraViolet store in order to ensure that they make a profit.
Unfortunately, studios are insistent on making newly-released movies carry the UltraViolet copies and this undermines Singer’s claim. While he envisions it as the next step in the chain, like Blu-Ray, the truth is that if UltraViolet is to succeed, the movie studios need to look at the business models of Amazon and Apple, instead of the iTunes store.
When a tech company makes a new format for digital movies that cannot be played on the existing hardware of iPods and other Apple devices, they need to think about creating the next Amazon store or iTunes and make a new device for the new product. Customers do not want to switch over to a new product unless it covers all of their entertainment needs, including music, movies and apps/video games. By restricting their development to movies, the studios are hurting themselves in the long run, since the wisest decision would be to make their own Kindle Fire or iPad.
And it is not like the studios do not have the resources to make it happen: Warner Brothers, one of the largest studios, is owned by Time Warner and has large libraries of movies, music and games to migrate over to the next iTunes store, a store with their own name on it.
UltraViolet, in its current iteration, is bad for consumers since it forces them to add new software to their devices to play a file that they should be able to play with the existing programs. For the studios, it is bad, since it should be packaged in with music and apps for the successor to the Kindle Fire and iPod.
Joel Frehn is a first-year literary criticim graduate student and can be reached at email@example.com.