Echoing the prolonged HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray format war (preceded decades earlier by VHS vs. Betamax), the dueling “digital locker” formats — Disney Movies Anywhere and UltraViolet — have arrived at a new path forward, and it promises to be a win-win for everyone. Various sites are reporting that “Movies Anywhere” will become the new standard for all the major studios. The new site only teases the log and the hashtag #anywhereiscoming.
To put this in normal English, the UltraViolet consortium — Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. — have thrown in the towel and signed onto Disney Movies Anywhere, which will politely change its name to Movies Anywhere in an act of noblesse oblige. But make no mistake, Movies Anywhere is a Disney owned-and-operated endeavor, a rebranded Disney Movies Anywhere, that will simply allow other studios to have “input” via an otherwise powerless advisory board.
As we have reported many times on the DigiGods podcast, Disney Movies Anywhere was always a superior system — better quality, less hassle — compared to the clunky, too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen system of UltraViolet which required users to sign up at one site, then choose another site as a “player” — Vudu or Flixster — unless, of course, your code didn’t take, in which case you’d have to visit a separate site — usually the proprietary studio site — to enter the code and have it actually take. Unless you waited too long and the code passed its expire date, in which case you’re out of luck or you have to reach out the studio and plead with them to reactivate the code.
Just remember that the original selling point for UltraViolet was “simplicity.”
Problems began when Fandango acquired Flixster last year. It was reported that UltraViolet was not part of the transaction.Though that eventually turned out to be little more than contractual minutiae, the bomb finally dropped at the end of August when the loss of a “critical vendor” resulted in Flixster terminating their UltraViolet involvement. No details have been forthcoming regarding the details of this “critical vendor,” but the UV consortium appears to have seen the writing on the wall with the dependency upon third-party “players.” If VUDU had similarly shut down, UltraViolet members would have found themselves in an unfathomably bad situation. Another telling sign that something was in the works was also noted in recent weeks on the DigiGods podcast as UV member studios had begun releasing Blu-ray and DVD titles with generic “Digital Copy” information on the packaging, but no UltraViolet logo or branding.
The Disney format, conversely, uses a proprietary application as a player that requires no third party involvement — and, in addition, your movies are also linked in your iTunes and Amazon accounts. Automatically. Hassle-free. Like it’s supposed to be.
The Movies Anywhere app is available for download effective immediately from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and Roku or MoviesAnywhere.com. The service can be linked to Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu. Support for game consoles is forthcoming.
The two former UltraViolet members notably absent from Movies Anywhere are Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate. It is not clear how UltraViolet lockers will transition over to Movies Anywhere or whether users will need a separate Vudu accounts for former UV members that do not belong to Movies Anywhere. The expectation is that both Paramount and Lionsgate will eventually join.
Former users of Disney Movies Anywhere and UltraViolet will need to set up a new Movies Anywhere account, which offers up to five subaccounts other family members. Supported devices include Amazon Fire, Android an, Android TV, iOS and Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and major web browsers.
Movies anywhere is offering up to five free movies for new registrants.
Update: “Your existing UltraViolet™ titles from Fox, Sony, Universal and other participating studios will automatically be added to your new Movies Anywhere library when you choose to synchronize your UltraViolet™ account to Movies Anywhere through Vudu.”