UltraViolet, an older “cloud movie locker” service, is shutting down. The service, which allowed consumers to unlock a digital copy of their DVDs and Blu-rays, was something of a transitional step between the age of physical media and today’s streaming video landscape. Over time, it’s become less necessary for consumers, as movie marketplaces and subscription services now offer extensive libraries of movies for streaming, rental and purchase — all in digital formats.
The shutdown was first reported by Variety.
Today, UltraViolet claims to have more than 30 million users, who are able to stream more than 300 million movies and shows from their cloud libraries. But arguably, “UltraViolet” never became a household name.
The service was not well-received at launch. When the Hollywood and tech execs first came up with the idea, many people at the time thought it was just another “form of DRM” to keep people from sharing their movies — the way that was possible with physical disks.
After a few years, however, UltraViolet loosened its grip a bit. Walmart’s Vudu began offering a way for people to selectively share their UltraViolet movies with friends back in 2014, for example.
But that may have already been too little, too late. People were increasingly more interested in streaming Netflix on their Roku — not buying DVDs, converting them to digital, then loaning them out. (Besides, if you really wanted your friend to watch one of your Vudu movies, it was just easier to share your login.)
UltraViolet’s other issue was Disney. While UltraViolet was backed by all the major Hollywood studios, it didn’t have Disney on board. And Disney later decided to launch its own cloud locker, Disney Movies Anywhere. With its launch, several studios left UltraViolet for Disney’s service, Variety’s report also noted. And last year, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Lionsgate stopped distributing new-release movies on UltraViolet.
Disney’s service — now just called Movies Anywhere and operated with studio partners that include Universal, WB, Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox — is more popular. Within one app, all the movies you purchased across retailers are centralized.
This, combined with a shift to streaming and subscription video, didn’t bode well for UltraViolet’s future.
The service will shut down on July 31, 2019.
Users are advised to link their UltraViolet accounts to at least one retailer before that date. They should not actually cancel or unlink their UltraViolet accounts before then, as they’d lose their entire movie collection, in that case.