Have you personally tried out UltraViolet yet? Have you taken all those DVDs on your shelves to Walmart to get your Ultraviolet rights? I suggest you take the time to go to the Ultraviolet site and read up on it. I tested the Wal-mart disc-to-digital program myself to see how it worked. I brought in five titles:
- Spider-Man from Sony Pictures
- The Incredible Hulk from Universal Pictures
- Avatar from 20th Century Fox
- Iron Man from Paramount Pictures
- The Dark Knight from Warner Bros. Pictures
Walking into Wal-Mart, I looked for signage that would tell me where to go with my discs, but I did not find any. I knew I had to go to the Photo Center but if I had not, it might have taken me some time to figure this out. At the Photo Center, the associate said I was the first customer she ever processed for the disc-to-digital program. She said another customer had inquired about it but believed you would get a Flash drive and did not know you needed to bring in your discs.
Of the five titles I brought in, Avatar and Iron Man were unavailable. I gave the associate the email that I use for my VUDU account but she could not find it. Finally, I said to just go ahead and set up on one of my other email accounts (though now I am concerned that I will have two U/V accounts). The whole process took about 20 minutes. My poor associate could not find the stamp to mark my discs as already enabled and also had to mark things down on a paper form and tape a bar code to it.
When I got home, I noticed that the associate did not get my email correct on the little card she handed me which I should have taken a closer look before leaving the store. Later I got in touch with VUDU’s support to see what they could do to get this fixed, and they were able to straighten things out fairly quickly.
My assessment is the disc-to-digital Wal-mart program needs to be widely marketed to consumers so there is greater awareness of the program and tout the value. There should be signage as you walk in to let you know the availability of the program. A dedicated counter with a VUDU logo on it should be set up near the entrance where they place the shelf with the new DVD titles to draw people in. Also, running a promotion like the one currently on VUDU would entice the 200 million people Wal-Mart services weekly worldwide.
At CES last January, I had a new Samsung Blu-Ray player demonstrated to me that would let consumers put their DVD’s in it and get U/V rights through a Flixster interface. This goes back to the heart of what consumers want: convenience. That Iron Man and Avatar are available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Streaming makes it hard to believe that they are not part of U/V. Granted, VUDU does offer a search tool so you can see what titles are available for the disc-to-digital program but I cannot find a comprehensive list or better yet, an API of these titles.
With Apple and Disney not participating in Ultraviolet, the consumer has to deal with further complexities. If you bought a title from Apple, then you cannot play it back on your Xbox without some masterful knowledge. Disney titles you bought on disc will not be added to your U/V collection and you will have to watch it on Disney’s home-grown digital service.
Enabling legal content viewing in the most convenient way should be the industry’s mantra. Couple convenience with an optimal price point not too far above a rental price should increase Electronic Sell Through for the industry. Also, with the popularity of the subscription services, content owners should be asking for a U/V sell-through area when customers are searching titles and cannot find it on the subscription service. Offering a way to watch what consumers want to see is a missing component of the subscription service. If a consumer really wants to watch Iron Man and Netflix does not offer it on its streaming service, why not offer a path to purchase it for the consumer?
We are still in the early stages of the transition from physical product to digital but digital is clearly the future and Ultraviolet’s core proposition of buy it once, watch in anywhere, anytime on any device will ultimately win consumers over.
So speaks Rhodes the Roving Consumer