UltraViolet Shutdown Does Not Inspire Confidence

I consider myself a technology enthusiast, but it’s not a blank check. Reliability and dependability is a big deal, and I view with skepticism technologies which fail on those fronts. This is the reason I have not started talking to Google Assistant on my Android phone – voice recognition is too unreliable. It’s also why I would spent extra money for CAT6 Ethernet in a house – wireless is always less reliable than wired. And finally, it’s why I have a DVD (now Blu-ray) collection, even though almost anything is available online.

To ease skeptics like myself into the digital world, many of my recent movie purchases on physical media also included a code to grant me a digital license of the film. I was willing to participate in this experiment, because if the digital arm folds I still have my physical media. This proved wise when the digital film was provided by a service created by a studio for their own films, as they closed down one by one. I also have digital licenses for movies on platforms like Windows Media, but even though the platform lives the studio-specific license servers have been taken down making my content unplayable.

UltraViolet was an effort to build a more permanent platform, with support of multiple studios for the content and multiple services for playback. Movies Anywhere started as a Disney-only effort (which drew my skepticism) but it has since grew into a multi-studio offering. Playback quality is uneven across various streaming services, but having a centralized license store made it very consumer friendly – I could sample the quality of different feeds and play the best one. I’ve been quite satisfied with recent releases on Vudu and Fandango Now, both of which offer high bandwidth 4K HDR streams with quality high enough I have a hard time distinguishing from Blu-ray media playback on my Roku-equipped TCL television.

I started feeling more comfortable with the idea of making digital-only movie purchases, easing into the digital library concept. Hey, maybe this is going to work after all and my money won’t vaporize overnight.

Then UltraViolet announced they are shutting down.


Just like the little startup services that never matured, Variety reports the studios involved have collectively agreed to call it quits. This shutdown notice seems to imply that my digital licenses will still survive in linked retailers, but then I’m beholden to individual retailers honoring this agreement and also staying in business.

I always knew these licenses are subject to variables outside my control, but I was gradually easing into the idea perhaps those variables aren’t as volatile as they were. This is a reminder otherwise.

Looks like I will continue to buy physical media.

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