Today at the official first-day keynote of CES 2013, CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro introduced a group of Hollywood studio executives to announce a new partnership between UltraViolet, the digital movie locker service designed to help move movie sales to a multi-device future, and TV and Blu-ray player manufacturers. Warner Home Video President Ron Sanders also shared some stats on the service’s progress: It now has more than 9 million accounts, and expects to pass the 10 million mark sometime in the next few months.
The arrangement between UltraViolet’s group of studios, which includes Sony Pictures, Universal, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate, as well as home theatre CE device makers, will see buyers of new smart TVs and connected Blu-ray players receive 10 free movies with their device purchase starting later this year. Manufacturers on board include LG, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio.
Sanders also discussed how vendors like Flixster, which are providing disk-to-digital services, will enable users to convert their existing media to UltraViolet-enabled digital editions for sharing across their devices.
While Sanders made UltraViolet sound like a way to unlock your media, it’s essentially still a means for Hollywood publishers and studios to enforce DRM on digital content. In a lot of ways, it’s a case of getting users to pay for their content all over again, since fees are incurred when you want to convert your DVDs and physical media to an UltraViolet-compatible format through Walmart and other providers.
UltraViolet’s progress numbers indicate that people are using the service, but the decision to include free copies with new shipping consumer electronic devices is also obviously designed as a way to promote the service and get it traction with a wider population.
UltraViolet took heat for having a weak launch, with reviews that were less than stellar. The company is now clearly eager to share updated numbers about its traction. But more info on revenue would be interesting to see, even more so than sign-up numbers, which don’t necessarily reflect how the service is doing from a financial standpoint.