29 April 2013
The future is bright, the future is Ultraviolet?
During the recent PEVE Entertainment 2013 conference, there was much discussion about Ultraviolet, including positive comments from Sony Pictures and DECE (the industry body behind it) and negative comments from SKY. PEVE also had 2 panel sessions from “ordinary” consumers representing both the younger age group (18-24) and an older age group (45+). These panel sessions had not heard of Ultraviolet, so what is it?
In an effort to boost sales of physical media (DVD / Blu-Ray) Ultraviolet was created. The central concept is that when you buy the physical media, you also get a virtual copy of the same content stored in “the cloud” for you to access when you choose. Ultraviolet was launched in the US and Canada and is now in the UK, although content is very limited. Of the top 50 titles this week, around 6 were Ultraviolet compatible.
The process of using Ultraviolet, especially for setup, is not straightforward. After purchasing your disc, you get a code in the box. You then need to setup an account with the disc maker (such as Sony pictures), then with Ultraviolet. After this, you also need to set up an account with the player you plan to use (e.g. Flixster on an iPad) and link the account to your Ultraviolet account. Only after all of this can you access your content - too many steps for a real mass market solution.
Ultraviolet is an example of how the content industry is trying to maintain a retail presence in the face of stiff competition. They seem focused on retail and internet based services (OTT) to grow their business, with little attention being paid to data poor customers, who can either suffer from a lack of bandwidth, or a limited download limit.
During all the presentations about how to grow their businesses, some points were almost casually dropped into conversation. The on-demand market in all its forms is alive and well, with growth in developed countries and also potential in emerging markets. Instead of focusing on how they could best deal with these new opportunities, the conversation would eventually come back to someone mentioning Ultraviolet again.
So what about these emerging markets, what do they need? They need a stable, reliable solution that can deal with low / no internet bandwidth and provide a high quality customer experience, such as Mocast or Television Anytime Anywhere. Of course the opportunity is not just in emerging markets, as one of the panelists put it, he lives 40 miles outside London and cannot get a sustained internet connection to stream / download content.
The panel session I took part in was tasked with looking at the effect of tablets in the media and computing landscapes. My fellow panelists were device manufacturers (eBook and tablets) so naturally a lot of the discussion centered around the physical devices. One area that everyone was enthusiastic about was the ability to open up new sources of content with good customer experiences. The eBook readers were of course eager to maintain a vertical model for the supply of ebooks, whilst also looking at additional video content from elsewhere (for suitable models of course). There was overall agreement that there needs to be alternative sources of content to iTunes for iOS devices and beyond and that the targeted delivery of content to tablets (TabletTV) was an extremely interesting proposition.
So overall, once you get beyond the obsession about Ultraviolet, the PEVE conference showed there is potential for growth in the content industry, by looking to both new markets and new delivery mechanisms.
Dr Glenn Craib
Vice President Products & Services