It’s no secret that we’ve never been fans of the UltraViolet digital content service. UltraViolet was touted as the industry’s answer to growing consumer demand for digital video content at the start of the decade.
It’s 2010. The anticipated managed copy solution for Blu-ray discs is still unavailable for Blu-ray, and the industry is brooding over Apple’s stranglehold on digital audio sales. So what do they do? Band together the industry players in the video space and offer a solution that the major content owners can control. Note that we didn’t say, “work together to create a compelling digital video marketplace that rivals the ease and flexibility of Apple’s own iTunes ecosystem.” No, they didn’t do that.
Instead, UltraViolet presented consumers with a confusing hodge-podge of studio-sponsored, online “retail” stores—each with its own pricing model, redemption process, and usage and access restrictions. Some let you download movies to your computer; others didn’t. Some let you redeem and watch in multiple marketplaces; others didn’t. Some let you also redeem a copy through iTunes; others didn’t. And two of the big boys—Apple and Disney—didn’t participate at all. They didn’t need to. Apple already had this covered, and Disney decided to go in its own direction. And that was a bet that paid off. Movies Anywhere grew out of Disney’s competitive solution.
Fewer than 8 years after its initial launch, UltraViolet is shutting down. The official date is July 31, 2019, but your service may require you to take action sooner.
So Now What?
OK, so UltraViolet didn’t survive. We could beat this one to death, but it’s too late for that! So what do you do now if you still use UltraViolet? The good news is that you have until this summer, for the most part, to figure this out.
While UltraViolet partners have been dropping out left and right, a few key participants remain—among them VUDU and Verizon FiOS. VUDU practically saved UltraViolet a few years back, coming on as its biggest storefront. It made the whole UltraViolet experience easier and (finally) brought (most of) your movies together in an environment that’s now available on nearly every major hardware platform.
VUDU is stepping up again, and it is probably your best bet for retaining access to your UltraViolet purchases. If you don’t already have a VUDU account, you may want to consider opening one. UltraViolet will shut down on July 31, 2019, but you should do this sooner than later.
Connect your VUDU and UltraViolet accounts in VUDU’s settings to give your UV movies a new home. Most of them, anyway. VUDU doesn’t necessarily have all of the movies you could redeem through UltraViolet.
It’s Not Too Late
If your accounts are already connected, you don’t need to do anything else. Keep them connected. And if you haven’t already done so, you should consider creating a Movies Anywhere account, which can replicate (though “federate” may be the more accurate term) most of your VUDU movies to other major services like iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Video, and more. There is not, as of yet, any similar service for TV episodes like with UltraViolet. But your purchased or redeemed TV episodes will remain available in VUDU.
Verizon is among the providers that integrates UltraViolet with your purchases from its own On Demand library. But FiOS doesn’t partner with Movies Anywhere, so you may again want to consider adding VUDU into the mix so you can retain your purchases if you ever switch providers.
If you’ve never redeemed the digital copy of movies you’ve purchased on DVD or Blu-ray, now would be the time. While most redemption codes expire after a specific date, you may still be able to redeem some of them, even beyond that date. It’s worth a try, and it’s your easiest path toward “converting” those purchases to a streaming service.
Sorry, Not Sorry
It would be disingenuous to suggest that we’re sorry to see UltraViolet go. We’re not. It was an ill-conceived and poorly-implemented platform from the start. UltraViolet favored the business models of an industry frightened by digital and cloud and sharing over the needs and interests of consumers. It was inconsistent, confusing, and unnecessarily encumbered. So goodbye, UltraViolet…let us show you the door. It’s Movies Anywhere’s time. Now maybe the holdout studios—Paramount and Lionsgate—will come play in the new pool.