UltraViolet is a free, cloud-based, digital rights library that allows users of digital home entertainment content to stream and download licensed content to multiple platforms and devices. The UltraViolet ecosystem embraces a "pay once, play almost anywhere" approach that allows users to store proofs-of-purchase of media rights in an account to enable playback of licensed content on different devices using multiple applications, and via different streaming services. UltraViolet also allows users to share access to their library with up to 5 additional people, and 12 different devices, with up to three simultaneous streams. UltraViolet is deployed by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem an alliance of 85 companies that includes film studios, retailers, consumer electronics manufacturers, cable TV companies, ISPs, network hosting vendors, and other Internet systems and security vendors, with the notable exceptions of Disney, Google, Amazon.com and Apple.
- 1 How it works
- 2 Content partners
- 3 Streaming providers
- 4 Downloading
- 5 Selected DRM technologies
- 6 Criticism
- 7 History
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
How it works
Consumers can create a free UltraViolet account, either through a participating UltraViolet service provider, or through the official UltraViolet website. An UltraViolet account is a Digital Rights Locker where licenses for purchased content are stored and managed irrespective of the point of sale. The Ultraviolet account holder is allowed to share their library with 5 other users, which are called members.
Consumers can acquire UltraViolet rights by purchasing a physical disc that includes an UltraViolet activation code, by purchasing a movie directly from an electronic retailer, or by using a disc to digital service. Disc to Digital services allow consumers to insert a DVD or Blu-ray into their computer's disc drive, scan it to verify ownership, and then add it to their UltraViolet collection for a small fee. Several retailers including Vudu, CinemaNow, and Flixster now offer this service.
Consumers can then stream or download their UltraViolet content from any participating retailer. Participating retailers are listed in the table below.
The UltraViolet digital locker does not store video files, and is not a "cloud storage" platform. Only the rights for purchased content are stored on the service. UltraViolet only coordinates and manages the licenses for each account, but not the content itself. The content may be obtained in any way, in its multi-DRM container format. By creating a digital-rights locker rather than a digital media storage locker, UltraViolet bypasses the cost of storage and bandwidth used when the media is accessed and passes that cost on to various service providers. In addition, by only managing the rights and licensing of content, UltraViolet insulates itself from future technological advances, allowing users to keep watching content they have purchased.
- Major Film Studios
- Minor Film Studios
- Television Studios
Walt Disney and its wholly owned studios are not members of DECE, and do not release any of their films with UltraViolet rights. On February 25 The Walt Disney Company launched its own competing digital movie locker called Disney Movies Anywhere that allows any Disney movie purchased or redeemed in iTunes to be played via the web or in an IOS app. Disney also includes what it calls Digital Copy Plus on its new releases, Digital Copy Plus is a redemption code that works on Amazon Instant, Vudu, iTunes, or Google Play. Non-participation in the DECE consortium does not prohibit Disney from releasing films with UltraViolet rights. In 2012 Disney's CEO Bob Iger said the studio had not ruled out UltraViolet participation, but were taking a "wait-and-see approach" and that it was too early to make conclusions.
UltraViolet content is available from many existing movie streaming services, using their existing streaming and DRM technologies. Some services offer downloads that can be saved on notebook PC's, tablets, gaming consoles, or phones for offline viewing. Below is a table of all the streaming providers and the countries they serve.
Content can also be streamed over the Internet to an unlimited number of devices, depending on the content license rights held by the streaming provider. Up to three streams can be simultaneously transmitted. CFF Compatible devices will include set-top boxes as well as Internet-enabled devices such as computers, game consoles, Blu-ray Disc players, Internet TVs, smartphones and tablets.
Comparison of streaming providers
|United States||Canada||United Kingdom||Australia||New Zealand||France||Germany||Ireland||Switzerland||Resolution||Disc to Digital|
|Vudu||SD, HD, HDX|
|Target Ticket||SD, HD|
|M GO||SD, HD|
|JB Hi-Fi||SD, HD|
The UltraViolet Common File Format is not currently available, but is scheduled for launch in the second half of 2014. Streaming providers that offer UltraViolet already have their own proprietary download formats. They are unable to be copied from one device to another, and are not cross-platform.
Once the UltraViolet Common File Format is deployed, downloaded files will be able to be copied between devices, stored on physical media (e.g. DVDs, SD cards, flash memory) or cloud services, and can then be played on any UltraViolet device of software player registered to the household account, but they will not work with any devices which are not compatible with the UltraViolet CFF.
The Common File Format uses the Common Encryption (CENC) system. The format is based on the ISO Base File Format, and ensures that a consistent set of codecs, media formats, DRMs, subtitling, and metadata, are used across the whole UltraViolet ecosystem. The CFF will use the .uvu file extension. Because every UltraViolet title should arrive in this format, it will generally play on any UltraViolet registered device. The format is based on existing standards from MPEG, SMPTE, and others, and was originally derived from the Microsoft Protected Interoperable File Format (PIFF) specification. The goal was to avoid the problem of different file formats for different players and to make it possible to copy files from player to player.
There are two profiles for files and players: standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD). SD players can play only SD files. HD players can play both SD and HD files.
Much of the work done by DECE is being adopted by MPEG in updates to the MPEG-4 container format and as part of the MPEG Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) format. Therefore, the common file format can be used in other systems and is expected to become broadly deployed.
UltraViolet files use the fragmented MPEG-4 container format (fMP4, technically known as ISO/IEC 14496-12 and often called an ISO container, not to be confused with an ISO disk image.)
UltraViolet files are not required to be encrypted, but it is expected that they usually will be. The files are encrypted using AES keys, which are then protected using each of the required DRM systems, with the DRM-specific information placed in the header. Both ISO scheme (PSSH/CENC) and IPMP frameworks are allowed. A player device only needs to implement one DRM.
UltraViolet files use H.264/AVC video (ISO/IEC 14496-10). Multiple resolutions, aspect ratios, and frame rates are supported. Only progressive-scan video is allowed.
UltraViolet files use stereo MPEG-4 AAC LC audio (ISO/IEC 14496-3) as a required base format, with optional multi-channel AAC, HE AAC v2 (optionally with MPEG surround), Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD (MLP), DTS, DTS HD, DTS Master Audio, and DTS Express (low bit rate).
UltraViolet files use SMPTE Timed Text (SMPTE TT), which is in turn based on the W3C Timed Text Markup Language (TTML). TT incorporates both Unicode text and PNG graphics for captions, subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH), and other types of subtitles and subpictures such as sign language and written commentaries.
Selected DRM technologies
UltraViolet initially selected five DRM technologies allowing restrictions management on a broad range of devices: televisions, set-top-boxes, DVD & Blu-ray Disc players, games consoles, PC, tablets and smartphones.
The selected DRM technologies are:
- Google Widevine DRM, chosen for its strong position on set-top boxes
- Marlin DRM, chosen for its compatibility with many Connected TVs
- OMA CMLA-OMA v2, chosen for its strong position on mobile devices
- Microsoft PlayReady, chosen for its wide availability on PC and CE devices
- Adobe Primetime DRM, chosen for its wide availability on PC devices
- DivX Plus
Using the Common Encryption technology, any of these DRMs can be used to play the same file. There is no need to download another version to use a different DRM. The same file works everywhere (for a given screen size).
Limited interoperability with existing services
UltraViolet content is not yet available on some of the most popular video platforms, such as iTunes, Amazon Instant, and Xbox video. However, UltraViolet content can be played on Apple devices, including AppleTV and on the Xbox through a third party app from many of the streaming providers.
Walt Disney and MGM Studios have not yet begun to release their many films with UV rights, making it impossible for a user to have a complete collection of films in the format. Disney released its own digital rights locker to compete with UltraViolet.
Redemption sheets that come with physical discs often direct consumers to studio operated sites that may require registration, and often confuse users. This was a big problem when the service first launched, and caused a backlash among consumers. Recently the DECE has begun to rollout a common redemption website.  Redemption sheet codes also have an expiry date.
Restrictions on use
The mobile apps for tablets and smartphones are only able to stream or download movies in standard definition. The flixster app is able to stream/download movies in HD, but only movies from Warner Bros.
It is also not currently possible to download an UltraViolet file and copy it to another device, such as a smartphone or tablet. However, that capability is promised with the upcoming launch of the Common File Format.
Users have attempted to sell UV codes to others online.
||This section is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (February 2014)|
In November 2010, Walt Disney's CEO Bob Iger, said that Keychest (Disney's locker system) could eventually work with UltraViolet. He said: "It's not our goal to create a format war."
In January 2011, a number of major film studio announced support for UltraViolet. The studies were: Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. The notable exception was Walt Disney.
Launch of UltraViolet
In October 2011, UltraViolet entered Phase 1 soft-launch with the Warner Bros release of Horrible Bosses, the first UV title. Flixster re-launched as the first UltraViolet streaming service. Sony subsequently released its first two UV titles in December, The Smurfs and Friends with Benefits. Universal soon followed with the release of its first UV title, Cowboys & Aliens.
Feb 7: Walt Disney's CEO Bob Iger, said the company would take a wait and see approach towards UltraViolet.
April 16: Vudu (operated by Wal-Mart) became the first major UltraViolet retailer by adding UV rights to thousands of films available in its digital store. Wal-mart also launched an In Store Disc to Digital service, with more than 4000 titles initially.
May 2: UltraViolet surpassed 2 million users.
Sept 18: 20th Century Fox released its first UV title Prometheus, with a new "Digital HD" branding, 3 weeks ahead of its DVD street date, and made an additional 600 titles available with UltraViolet rights.
Sept 20: UltraViolet surpassed 5 million users and 7,200 titles.
Nov 20: Disney announced it would shut down it's DisneyMoviesOnline service in late December. Industry insiders predicted that Disney would abandon its competing "keychest" technology. However, the launch of DMA on February 25, 2014 confirmed that prediction was pre-mature.
Jan 7: The DEG announced that 9 million UV accounts had been created, and that 8,500 UV titles were available.
April 19: Mark Tietell revealed that UltraViolet had surpassed 12 million users.
May 9: 20th Century Fox announced it would offer Digital HD UltraViolet rights with all new films, and would stop including iTunes digital copies on a title by title basis.
May 25: Disney debuted Digital Copy Plus, which ended iTunes exclusive digital copies on all of its new releases. The new Digital Copy Plus allows the redemption of digital copies from iTunes, Amazon Instant, Vudu, Target Ticket, or Google Play.
June 3: Wal-Mart launched an In Home Disc to Digital service as a public beta.
July 9: Lionsgate joined 20th Century Fox in dropping iTunes digital copies with Tyler Perry's Temptation and offering UV exclusive digital copies with most new releases.
Aug 7: The DEG announced that 10,000 titles were available and 13 million accounts had been created.
Sept 3: CinemaNow bowed its Disc to Digital service in Canada.
Nov 20: Ultraviolet launched in France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with the Warner Bros film Pacific Rim.
Over the course of 2014, the number of accounts on UltraViolet has increased substantially, from 15 million accounts in January to 17 million in April to over 19 million worldwide accounts in September (with 16 million in the United States).
In terms of titles available, as of January 2014, UltraViolet surpassed 12,000 available titles.
Feb 25: Disney launched Disney Movies Anywhere a streaming service powered by its own KeyChest technology to connect to iTunes, which is used to purchase or redeem content for playback via its DMA website.
Feb 26: Mitch Singer, the President of DECE stated that the new Disney Movies Anywhere service would not prohibit Disney from offering UltraViolet titles in the future.
Early in May, UltraViolet Chief Mark Teitell told a reporter that the Common File Format was planned for launch in the second half of 2014.
May 14, Vudu debuted a new feature that allows UltraViolet users to share their movies with up to five friends.
Aug 11: Home Media Magazine reported that more than 14% of digital content purchases are from UltraViolet Users.
Early in September, DECE began to rollout a new common redemption site.
Oct. 1: MGM began to offer UV rights for many of its catalog titles.
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