Movie Studio’s iTunes Rival UltraViolet Gets Black Eye From Angry Consumers

Movie Studio’s iTunes Rival UltraViolet Gets Black Eye From Angry Consumers

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Here’s a Hollywood marketing tactic we never thought of: Create an iTunes alternative so roundly despised that you’re forced to send angry consumers to iTunes. And you wonder why your DVD player is gathering dust?

Warner Bros. is handing out iTunes coupon codes to the studio’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 on disc. Designed to highlight Ultraviolet — Hollywood’s answer to iTunes, Netflix and other services killing physical sales of movies — the flick instead became the focus of a very public rejection. Half of the 400 Amazon.com reviews gave the movie one star because of the Ultraviolet fiasco.

Studios promoted Ultraviolet as a way movie fans could buy a Blu-ray or DVD disc then stream it over-and-over again to all their devices, using Warner Bros.’ Flixster app.

But there were already plenty of signs consumers just weren’t going for the idea. Two previous Ultraviolet titles — Horrible Bosses and The Green Lantern — were also panned as everything from “an awful move” to “a joke.”

If you bought one of these turkeys, Flixster is handing out coupons for a free iTunes download at support.ultraviolet.flixster.com.

All of which leaves Apple in the cat-bird seat, once again. Apple and animation mogul Disney passed on UltraViolet to create their own digital movie locker, KeyChest. As for Hollywood, it looks like they have the makings of another disaster movie.

  • MoistPup

    Hollywood executives think of themselves as the center of the universe, and have built their teams of yes men to reinforce that.  Hollywood no longer has control of the distribution channels due to consumer (ie, FREE MARKET) preference for EASY digital distribution channels like iTunes.  That means the executives can no longer throw tantrums and act like bullies when it comes to distribution.  They have to play nice, and actually practice legal accounting practices, with electronic distribution companies like Apple.  Nothing is more frightening to the inept egotists that run Hollywood studios.

  • Mike McLeod

    did a search of the ultraviolet support site for iTunes download link or info but couldn’t find anything.  sent a ticket to user support.  is there a better way to do this?

  • minimalist1969

    Luckily the DVD contained with the three disc set rips just fine to mp4.   I won’t even be taking the ultraviolet code out of the box.

  • Mike McLeod

    Nope, just got a speedy response from customer support with an iTunes code. Badass.

  • larrymadill

    I don’t know why the Studios thought building their own content delivery system / standard was a good idea. They’re in the business of content creation and really have no idea how to build an iTunes competitor. Let alone a iTunes Killer

  • Jdsonice

    And in case any notice the link provided takes you to a site that does NOT support Safari :-) 

    Jeez how stupid are these idiots? The fact that there are websites that don’t support Safari (CareerBuilder is another one of those stupid sites) tells me that there are a huge number of people stuck in the Microsoft Century of CRAP. 

  • prof_peabody

    I’m sure UltraViolet is nasty as everyone says, but it might be an idea to include in the body of the article some kind of description of *why* customers found it to be so.  No where here does it even mention what the complaints are.

  • Joshua Wolf

    Not me.  I told them how much Flixster and UV sucked, and they said tough.

  • skippykawakami

    I have no idea why people hate Ultraviolet, it seems like a good service. Check out the video on Ultraviolet’s “about” page. They describe a *very simple* process to download or stream your UV copy. And it is very simple: a single website where you sign up twice, press up to five different buttons, fill in form fields on at least three different pages, download two apps for your computer and one for each mobile device, and respond to two different confirmation emails. 

    Why on earth would people hate anything so user-friendly?

    Check out how very, very easy it is here: http://ultraviolet.flixster.co

  • Len Williams

    LOL!! Isn’t it amazing that even when the studios have iTunes to copy, they still come up with something this convoluted and user-hostile? It’s one of the wonderful things I admire about Apple. Steve & Co. (now Tim & Co.) do all the figure-out to make the user experience simple, intuitive and elegant, which is exactly the way it should be. Funnily enough, users like this approach. Duh.

  • skippykawakami

    Yeah, it’s amazing. I watched the little how-to video, and my jaw dropped. It went on so long and had so many steps it began to feel like one of SNL’s fake commercials, except that they were entirely serious. This thing is DOA.

  • Kazoooooooooom

    I don’t see why so many people are freaking out I thought it was going to be crap but when I bought deathly hallows pt 2 I realized im getting a lot more out of ultraviolet

    5 Computer DOWNLOADS over the movie
    unlimited streaming of it to any of your devices pc mac android iphone ipad etc.

    correct me if im wrong but im pretty sure on iTunes movies are the one thing you can only download once..

  • Mrodri0173

    Movies on iTunes can be loaded onto any of your computers that you authorize it to.

    As to why people hate UV, have fun going over your data cap when you watch the movies. Plus, you own them for 3 years. No thanks.

  • CharliK

    yes it is true you can only download it once from iTunes. but you can then copy it onto 4 more computers plus pretty much endless devices. And any decent computer user is backing up their data so you don’t need to download it again if you have it backed up properly

  • CharliK

    more like isn’t it amazing that the studios are trying to copy/compete with an established system like iTunes instead of embracing it and adding to what they allow that service to offer.

    heck those iOS apps weren’t totally bad. the only issue was that to unlock the features you had to buy the movie from inside the app and then you couldn’t view it on your computer, older iPods etc because the movie was embedded in the app data. if they could have worked out a system where you could buy it once, perhaps with the iTunes Extras features AND unlock an iOS version of the same thing for the iPad, iPhone, Apple TV they could have had better success. Especially if they add the audio, subtitles etc

  • CharliK

    according to my sister it was a pain in the butt to set up, multiple server errors trying to register and redeem their code, the flixster app crashed over and over on the boys iPad, having to install Adobe Air to use the system on the computer, no Apple TV support (they are a very Mac house). 

  • CharliK

    pretty much. 

    Rattner lost it over the suggestion of a two city test of VOD for Tower Heist (at like $60 a view) and it was cancelled. and TH still sucked at the box office and in the reviews. 

    TV nets don’t count things like iTunes in make good which would give them better info about viewership, more money and negate the bad PR that the Nielsen system has caused. There wouldn’t be all the smack talk and ‘save our show’ stuff if viewers knew they could cast a real vote via buying in iTunes/Amazon or watching it on one or more official streaming services. 

    and so on and so on

  • furiouscookie

    So I did buy Green Lantern and the HP Deathly Hallows part 2 discs and I’m still wondering how to get iTunes codes for these instead of UV. Can someone guide me in the right direction? Do I email Flixter or someone else? Do I have to sign up for UV first and redeem the codes in the blurays?

  • facebook-505899793

    I’m a Mac user and you couldn’t pay me to use Safari.

  • Lucas

    The only reason you can’t re-download or stream the movies you buy on iTunes is because Apple can’t get the movie studios to agree to terms on that. In other words, because they actually believe that UltraViolet will be successful, which it won’t. It’s complicated and locked into the thinking that people actually want hard-copies of the media they purchase in the modern technological world, which they don’t.

    I pirate movies on a weekly basis (assuming something good came out that week). I would LOVE to buy these movies legally if iTunes had the rights to stream or re-download the things I paid good money for. But the movie studios are irrevocably stuck to the dogmatic view that the only way to remain profitable is to monopolize the distribution of their content, a process which they are obviously incapable of handling with any semblance of grace.

    Their systems have been created by the lowest bidder, whereas Apple’s iTunes and even Amazon’s media services have been crafted by some of the brightest minds in the fields of server management and interface simplification.

    It’s an inevitability that the studios will have to turn to Apple to save them, the only thing that UltraViolet has changed is that Apple now has the upper hand in negotiations because of the sweeping failure of the UltraViolet platform. 

    If history is any indication (HD-DVD, BetaMax, I’m looking in your direction) the studios will continue on this inexorable path for 3-5 more years before realizing that Apple wasn’t their enemy at all, they were their savior. If it weren’t for iTunes with iCloud, I would still be pirating my music. I now pay for every song I want, and I’m glad to do so. People will always pay for convenience. Just think how many billions of dollars the studios have been missing out on by not catering to the crowd that understands that the consumer is king, and more importantly, that those people who understand this are also the ones with the passion to influence other consumers who don’t care enough to figure it out for themselves.

  • tgiant1

    Because Flixter crashes in the middle of a movie (GL). I WANT IT ON ITUNES!! Flixter is crap!!

  • coldgoldenfalstaff

    Sadly, this has forced me to go back and rip the DVD that I purchase to get the movie into iTunes, instead of the quick and easy (and legal) Digital Copy method.

    Movie Studios- wake up. Consumers want a copy. Not something in the cloud that’s hard to use and can be taken away from them at any time at corporate whim.

About the author

Ed SutherlandEd Sutherland is a veteran technology journalist who first heard of Apple when they grew on trees, Yahoo was run out of a Stanford dorm and Google was an unknown upstart. Since then, Sutherland has covered the whole technology landscape, concentrating on tracking the trends and figuring out the finances of large (and small) technology companies.

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