UltraViolet is closing imminently, and if you’re relying on that cloud-based service for anything in your movie collection, now is a good time — while you still have time — to make sure you can still access your films in the future.
Wednesday, July 31, is the date of UltraViolet’s closure, the company announced back in January; that will be nearly eight years since the service’s debut in the autumn of 2011. If you’ve bought a DVD, Blu-ray, or 4K Blu-ray since then, there’s a good chance it came with a code in the package to receive a digital version of the film or TV show on UltraViolet. Your digital library can live on beyond UltraViolet’s death, but it’s up to you to make sure that you still have access to it.
Here’s what the UltraViolet shutdown FAQ says on the subject:
In most cases, we anticipate very little impact. Most, and perhaps all, existing rights in UltraViolet Libraries currently available through your linked retailers that are still operating should continue to be available from those retailers. While there could be some disruption, we do not anticipate this on a broad scale and are working diligently to minimize and avoid such instances.
The key phrase there is “linked retailers.” It’s crucial to log in to UltraViolet by July 31 and check the retailers that you’ve linked your collection to — in the U.S., the list includes FandangoNow, the high-end home theater service Kaleidescape, and the Walmart-owned platform Vudu. As long as you’ve connected your UltraViolet account to at least one of those retailers by the time UltraViolet shuts down on Wednesday, you’ll still be able to watch your content through them.
With the backing of almost all of the “Big Six” Hollywood studios, and other heavyweights such as retailers and telecom giants — a consortium known as the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem — UltraViolet, which launched in 2011, seemed destined to be the default platform for storing home video content in the cloud. Despite the service’s popularity (it had more than 30 million users as of January, with a combined collection of over 300 million films and TV shows), The Walt Disney Company, the lone holdout among the major film studios, brought about UltraViolet’s downfall.
Disney only launched its own competing platform, Disney Movies Anywhere, in 2014. But the service had iTunes integration, a key feature that was missing from UltraViolet, and with Disney’s formidable content library, the company was soon able to make deals with other key retailers like the Google Play Store and Amazon. In 2017, the service relaunched as simply Movies Anywhere — with all the major studios on board except for Paramount Pictures. (Even now, neither Paramount nor the smaller studios Lionsgate and MGM have signed on to Movies Anywhere, but perhaps that will change with the official demise of UltraViolet.)
UltraViolet officials haven’t directly attributed its closure to Disney. Wendy Aylsworth, president of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, told Variety in January that the decision to shut down the platform “doesn’t really have anything to do with Movies Anywhere.” The answer for “why is UltraViolet going away?” in the service’s FAQ does mention the rise of “services that provide expanded options for content collection and management independent of UltraViolet,” with any competition concerns covered by a vague reference to “other market factors.”