Major studios are in discussions with Amazon about bringing the online retail giant into Hollywood’s preferred online UltraViolet digital media locker, Bloomberg reports. The continuing talks center on plans to expand UltraViolet for storing and watching movies on tablets such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire and other devices, according to sources cited by Bloomberg. Response has been tepid for UltraViolet, which allows consumers to buy videos and store them online for playback on any device. The studios hope to stimulate the digital market as declining DVD sales have not been supplanted by Blu-Ray and download purchases. Studios backing UltraViolet include Warner Bros, Sony, Fox, Universal, Paramount, Sony and Lionsgate, according to UV’s website. Several retailers have also signed up. But the problem is that there’s not a single unified hub where consumers can access the content they buy. And Disney is developing its own separate system. Apple and iTunes, which have their own online storage service iCloud, also have not embraced UltraViolet for iPads, iPods or iPhones. Amazon has the experience and computer server infrastructure for the kind of storage and playback envisioned by UltraViolet. It already allows its customers to store movies purchased on Amazon. In addition, Amazon also hosts Netflix’s streaming. It’s possible some kind of agreement might be announced at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
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.
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 …
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.
UPDATE: Jeff Bewkes Admits ‘Green Lantern’ Not As Bright As Expected As Time Warner Beats 2Q Estimates
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.
LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2011 – Six of Hollywood’s largest studios including Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. today announced their support for the UltraViolet service and format created by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE). Complementing