On December 26, Warner Bros’ Final Destination 5 will become the first UltraViolet-enabled title to be released in the UK via DVD, Blu-ray and Triple Play. From then on, all of the studio’s future home entertainment releases in the UK — including Happy Feet Two, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and The Dark Knight Rises — will fall under the UltraViolet “buy once, play anywhere” scheme. As with its practice in the U.S., Warner will offer the streams via Flixster.
Warner Bros was the first to release UV titles in the U.S. back in October with Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern. Although I was told by a Warner UK spokesman that there is no industry evidence as yet on the impact of the added UltraViolet aspect, the Associated Press today reports that consumers of those earlier films found the system didn’t work as expected. Warner Bros UK spokeswoman Deborah Lincoln, who had not read the AP report but was aware of certain complaints, tells me the confusion was largely related to the fact that those first titles didn’t have download ability to certain devices — which she assured me was not going to be the case in the UK. In part, she said, the confusion may have come from early media reports regarding UltraViolet touting it as an anytime, anywhere technology for all devices including IOS — shorthand for Apple’s mobile operating system. Those capabilities do exist now, and Lincoln says, “We’ve learned to be clear.” She added that with such a new technology, “there are inevitably going to be lessons … we’re going to be learning and keep changing.”
In between Warners’ U.S. and UK releases, Sony began testing the U.S. waters with The Smurfs and Friends With Benefits in early December and will soon release Moneyball in the same fashion. The UltraViolet initiative is backed by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, which is made up of the major studios (save, notably, Disney) several VOD platforms and other media partners. Canada will be the next stop for an UltraViolet launch.
In the UK, supermarket giant Tesco, along with its majority-owned Blinkbox online service, has launched its own version of a digital cloud. The service rolled out earlier this month with the release of Warner Bros’ Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Lincoln says the fact that the Tesco service launched with a Warners title ahead of Warners’ own UV launch was just a question of timing. Tesco is also part of the DECE alliance.
That’s the most interesting part of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s announcement today about its video plans for the movie starring Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. Yes, it’s noteworthy that people who buy a Blu-ray disc will … Read More »
Continuing to ramp up its interests in the movie biz, UK supermarket giant Tesco is launching its own version of a digital locker with an initiative that will allow customers who buy a physical DVD or Blu-ray in-store to also … Read More »
UPDATE, 10:55 AM: Dish Network CEO Joe Clayton was clearly talking about Warner Bros, although he didn’t single the studio out by name in his company’s conference call with analysts. Warners wants to make Blockbuster wait 28 days for new home videos, leading the rental operation that Dish bought in April to go to the open market to buy DVDs of WB’s Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern. The studio withheld them, largely to help its efforts to promote VOD and sales of new discs that include UltraViolet’s digital streams to PCs and mobile devices. That “creates some challenges,” Clayton says – adding that Blockbuster rentals improve promotion for films as they move to TV and other markets.
As for the main satellite video business, Clayton says: ”Progress was made in the third quarter. Was it enough? No.” He vowed to step up Dish’s marketing, which he says “needed the most work,” adding that he’s “cautiously optimistic” there’ll be progress in 4Q. Chairman Charlie Ergen said that DirecTV’s strong 3Q results last week shows that “there’s still a big business out there for satellite television on a stand-alone basis…. We’re just not getting our fair share.” Dish would consider offering less expensive video packages. Read More »
Warner Bros and Dish Network’s Blockbuster are at odds over a rental-release window for the studio’s films, and now Warners has stopped giving Blockbuster its latest releases. According to the Financial Times, the retailer is refusing Warner Bros’ request … Read More »
HBO plays a bigger role than you might imagine in Apple’s negotiations with Hollywood to offer recent movies via the iTunes Store and its new iCloud service to devices such as the iPhone and iPad. HBO’s deals with studios including … Read More »
UPDATE: The question about whether Apple devices can show UltraViolet films is complicated, it seems. The folks at Warner Bros say that iPhones and iPads can handle them – but not through the traditional channel, the iTunes Store. Users must download an app to also register with Flixster, a site that Time Warner owns. Movies can be streamed, but not downloaded yet. Sony’s likely to have a similar work-around for its Dec. 2 release of UltraViolet-enabled Blu-ray discs for Friends With Benefits and The Smurfs.
PREVIOUS, 10:50 AM: There’s still a fair amount of skepticism about the entertainment industry’s long-awaited UltraViolet program today as it kicks off with Warner Bros’ home video release of Horrible Bosses — to be followed on Friday by The Green Lantern. The DVD and Blu-ray versions of Bosses will be first that make it possible for buyers to watch it on mobile devices from UltraViolet’s Internet cloud. Studios and consumer electronics companies have a lot at stake in promoting the “buy once, play anywhere” concept. It’s part of a process to slow the stomach-churning decline in home video sales. Consumers will spend about $16.9B on home video this year, down from $24.4B in 2004, SNL Kagan says. If UltraViolet catches on, then it also could give studios a lot of flexibility to control the way their films are presented and handled as consumers begin to abandon discs and just rely on digital streams and downloads.
The problem? UltraViolet movies won’t play on Apple gadgets such as the iPhone and iPad. The initiative also won’t include movies from Disney, which is preparing its own cloud-based system called Disney Studio All Access. “Not only is the ecosystem not fully launched, with a common downloadable file format a ways off, but there has been no consumer education on the technological transition from a pre-UV world to the new UV ecosystem,” BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield says. Read More »
UPDATE, 9:30 AM: CEO Jeff Bewkes tried to stick to his optimistic story for Time Warner, but analysts forced him to play defense as well in this morning’s quarterly earnings call. In response to a question, Bewkes acknowledged that Green Lantern “did not live up to expectations” — although he wouldn’t say whether Warner Bros has ruled out a sequel. Despite the film’s disappointing performance, the CEO says that he’s “not concerned” about the studio’s effort to capitalize on DC Comics superheroes: “DC will be a major contributor,” with new films on tap featuring Batman and Superman.
Bewkes also said that TNT and TBS’ ratings suffered because “we had some bad programming choices in series we acquired over the last few years.” The problem may have been exacerbated by the fact that some of the shows were also available on digital platforms. As streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu become more popular, “hit shows win, and mediocre stuff loses.” Turner hopes to fix the problem by adding reruns of popular series including The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-0. One hit “can have a significant impact,” Bewkes says. He urged analysts to keep an eye on Time Warner’s upcoming initiatives involving Flixster, the movie site it recently bought, and the entertainment industry’s UltraViolet program that enables consumers who buy a home video to access it on almost any kind of device. Beginning with Warners’ Green Lantern the “vast majority” of its releases will work with UltraViolet, Bewkes says. He adds that a beta version of Flixster that will be “deeply integrated” with UltraViolet will be released this week. Beginning this fall, consumers also will be able to bring DVDs they already own to retailers who will be able to make them available from the broadband cloud. All in all, investors seemed unimpressed with today’s news even though the financial numbers beat analyst estimates: Time Warner shares are down about 2.2% in mid-day trading.
PREVIOUS, 4:42 AM: The entertainment giant ended 2Q with net income of $638M, up 13.5% vs the period last year, on revenues of $7B, up 10.2%. Earnings at 60 cents a share handily beat the Street’s forecast of 56 cents. Analysts also anticipated revenues of $6.8B. Read More »