Bloomberg News

Amazon Is First Big Retailer to Back Hollywood Film Format

January 12, 2012

(Updates with comment from Carr in eighth paragraph. For more on the Consumer Electronics Show, see EXT3 <GO>)

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Hollywood’s effort to sell digital copies of movies got a boost when Amazon.com Inc., the largest online vendor, agreed to use the industry’s common system for storing and streaming films.

Amazon is working with an unnamed studio to offer movies in the UltraViolet format, Bill Carr, the Seattle-based company’s executive vice president for digital media, said yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Amazon is the first major retailer to commit to using the platform.

Amazon’s participation may speed adoption of Ultraviolet, the Hollywood-led initiative to allow consumers to purchase a title from any retailer, store it in a central online account and stream it to a variety of gadgets, from televisions to Blu- ray players to mobile devices like Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

“The best movie and TV service for consumers is the one that provides them with the broadest choice possible,” Carr said.

UltraViolet aims to promote home-video sales, which are more profitable to studios than rentals. The system has struggled to attract users since its debut in October because no major retailers were promoting it and consumers have been confused about how to register and access movies they purchased.

Courting Amazon

Studios have been courting Amazon since October, people with knowledge of the matter said last month. Best Buy Co., owner the CinemaNow website, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., owner of Vudu.com, are members of the UltraViolet consortium, although neither website has begun using the system.

During a panel discussion with studio executives yesterday, Amazon’s Carr touted UltraViolet’s reach to a range of devices.

“We’re very excited about the additional possibilities from a customer’s point of view that UV enables,” Carr said.

Samsung Electronics Co. said it will make Blu-ray players equipped with an application that will load digital copies of older DVDs and Blu-ray discs into the UltraViolet system for a “nominal” fee. The stored movies would be accessed through Time Warner Inc.’s Flixster movie site.

Warner Bros., Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures and Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures have released DVDs and Blu-ray discs that can be registered for viewing through UltraViolet. Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures has said it plans to release titles. Walt Disney Co. isn’t an UltraViolet member.

The service has attracted 750,000 households since it was introduced in October, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem LLC, the consortium backing the platform, said yesterday in a statement.

Consumer electronics companies including Samsung, Panasonic Corp. and Toshiba Corp. also are members of the group.

--Editors: Anthony Palazzo, Rob Golum

To contact the reporters on this story: Cliff Edwards in San Francisco at cedwards28@bloomberg.net; Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net


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