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LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Sony, Vizio, Panasonic and Philips are pledging increased support for a virtual film library system that enables users to transfer their physical DVDs and Blu-ray titles to the cloud.
Announced during this week's CES trade show in Las Vegas, the manufacturers will each bundle 10 free UltraViolet film titles with their latest smart TVs, while their latest Blu-ray players will each come with five free titles. Supported by a number of Hollywood studios, including Warner Brothers and Sony, UltraViolet is seen by many as the best way to move cinephiles with extensive physical movie collections into the digital age while simultaneously reducing the risk of movie piracy.
Getting cinephiles to embrace the cloud
When existing audiophiles, locked into their CD formats, were asked to join the digital music revolution, there was a clear, simple path to take. Simply insert a CD into the computer's optical drive, open iTunes and rip a digital copy.
However, for cinephiles the same move is not so easy. There's no 'legal' video version of iTunes and as PC manufacturers start to abandon optical drives altogether -- the latest Apple iMacs and MacBooks have already done away with them -- a TV connected to a DVD or Blu-ray player is increasingly the only way they can access and enjoy their content.
For consumers just starting to build a film library, services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are perfect, but for those with an existing library, the idea of having to re-buy all of their films as digital files is a huge hurdle to adoption.
UltraViolet aims to overcome that obstacle by allowing users to create a virtual list in the cloud of their pre-bought films (think of it as a cinematic equivalent of iTunes Match or Google Music), which they can access on and even download to any internet-connected device. Films can also be bought in a digital format and moved to the system, and most high-profile new DVD and Blu-ray releases, such as "The Dark Knight Rises," are UltraViolet compatible immediately. Simply buy the disc and enter the serial number in the UltraViolet account and a digital copy automatically appears.
Already available in the US and UK, the UltraViolet service intends to expand into Australia, France, Germany, Ireland and New Zealand in 2013, and bundling compatible films with new consumer technology could be the best way to give it a firm foothold in new territories.