What UV’s demise means for users, and what steps to take to preserve your content
As reported by Variety yesterday, the UltraViolet (UV) digital video platform will be discontinuing services. Head to the UV website, and you’ll see that the writing is officially on the wall in no uncertain terms: “UltraViolet will close on July 31, 2019.”
What is uncertain to many, though, is what this means for their digital movies and TV collections.
Digital movies started in a weird place where they were mostly seen as content for your phones or computers. But as both HD content and app-friendly smart devices quickly evolved, UV soon became a viable option for the home theater experience with availability on Smart TVs, game consoles, and dedicated set top devices — and for any movie fan, the loss of a platform in which they’ve heavily invested is a daunting one.
The good news, though, is that if you take a few steps to safeguard and transfer your library to other platforms, the impact to you as a user will be minimal to none. The implication, though, is huge — UV had widespread industry support and unlike many digital services actually seemed a reliable option for future retention. If they can fail, then any digital platform can.
Link Your Ultraviolet Library to Vudu (and others)
Start by logging into the Ultraviolet website’s Retailer Services page and seeing how your library is currently linked to other platforms. For most users the key one here is Vudu, but your UV library can also be linked to FandangoNOW, Kaleidescape, Paramount, and Verizon FIOS.
For many users, UV is so closely linked to Vudu that they may not even be sure what the difference is. Hell, they’re 83% the same letters. Vudu is Walmart’s digital video platform, and they have very solidly designed apps and support for most SmartTV’s, mobile devices, game consoles, etc.
Aware of the potential for confusion, Vudu has just distributed a notice to users explaining that they’re not going anywhere. UV content will continue to be available on the site, and they’ll even continue to honor unexpired UV codes after the shutdown.
Here’s Vudu’s full statement and FAQ which are worth reviewing:
Several, but not all, major studios jointly participate in the popular Movies Anywhere platform, which allows you to link libraries and share your movies (but, important distinction, not television) on most major digital video providers.
Concisely, movies from Disney, Sony, Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros can be shared across your accounts at iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Xfinity, Google Play, Microsoft, and FandangoNOW.
Anyway, the key components here are Vudu or FandangoNOW — once you’ve linked your UV account to either of those platforms, it opens up your library to all those participating studios.
If you’re a new user, create an account on the MA website and it’ll guide you through the initial process.
Once you’ve set it up, or if you’re an existing user, review the “Manage Retailers” settings on your user profile to connect your various platforms. Again, they key point to preserving or importing UV content is to connect the accounts which are linked to your UV content, Vudu and/or FandangoNOW.
This will make most of your film library (ie the participating studios) globally to any platforms you opt to link, such as iTunes, Amazon, and Google, and is the single most critical step to future-proofing your collection, if only by spreading it around.
“Future proofing”. That’s a laugh. I hope this guide will help our readers maintain control of their digital movies, but if there’s one lesson from this UV debacle, it’s that remote digital ownership is not ownership at all. I don’t want to push too hard on this, but this is precisely why I — and most of the Cinapse team — are proponents of physical media. I do appreciate (and use!) the availability and flexibility of remote digital content platforms, but they are transient. Meanwhile, so many amazing distributors like Arrow, Shout Factory, Criterion, Severin, Vinegar Syndrome, Twilight Time, Kino Lorber, and many others are putting out incredible Blu-ray editions of everything from beloved mainstream hits to obscure ephemera. Support physical media.
With UV on the way out, it seems likely that some or all of the Movies Anywhere holdouts — Paramount, Lionsgate, and MGM — will join the platform. If so, then even more of your movie library will become available across different video providers. While I’m wary of digital media, the MA platform is, Disney’s ownership notwithstanding, the most consumer-minded attempt so far to open up proprietary restrictions, put digital content on an even playing field, and actually encourage competitive pricing amongst the various providers.
If, like many Blu-ray collectors, you are sitting on a pile of unused UV codes and suddenly feeling galvanized into action, I’d advise you to use them now. It’s worth noting that expired codes will typically still work beyond their printed expiration date so give them a shot.
Note most codes include legal disclaimers prohibiting consumers from selling or transferring them — I definitely will not advise you to break the law, so just suffice it to say fuck anyone who tells you what you can or can’t do with your own property.