Ultraviolet Movement Picks Up New Backer: Samsung

Samsung has rolled out a new line of Blu-ray players that support Ultraviolet, thus joining the ranks of entertainment brands that support the fledgling Hollywood studio-backed digital-locker initiative.

UltraViolet, which went “live” last month, is the new digital locker scheme — backed by Hollywood studios including Warner Bros. (NYSE: TWX), Universal, Sony (NYSE: SNE) and Paramount (NYSE: VIA) — that lets buyers of physical media also own a cloud-based digital version for no extra cost. The initiative is intended to curtail a rental and streaming trend among movie consumers, and re-kindle a demand for good old-fashioned disc ownership, with home entertainment revenue falling every year since 2004.

Samsung’s new players will support the new “disc to digital” feature that allows owners to authenticate their existing DVD and Blu-ray titles and store digital versions of them that can be played on devices like laptops, tablets and smart phones – for an extra “nominal” fee.

This authentication plan was concurrently announced at CES by Samsung and the technology’s developers, Rovi and Flixter, the latter of which is owned by Warner Bros. The feature will begin showing up in other home entertainment devices from other manufacturers in 2012.

UltraViolet is in its early stages, but Warner, for example, has already published several Blu-ray titles, Horrible Bosses and the Green Lantern, that include digital-locker versions that a purchaser can share with up to six members of their family. DECE, the consortium of consumer electronics companies that created Ultraviolet, says that about 750,000 people have signed up for accounts so far. It claims that consumers are 47 percent more likely to buy rather than rent an Ultraviolet-supportive disc.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that a number of early adopters are having compatibility issues with the new technology, with necessary UltraViolet software downloads not compatible with the player software they use on their devices, for example.

Addressing those issues to reporters at CES Tuesday, Mitch Singer, Sony Pictures chief technology officer, said, “The best way to describe the launch is we built this great house, it had an incredible foundation, and in our excitement to move in there was some finished carpentry that still needed to be done.”