Amazon to distribute UltraViolet films for Warner Bros.

Amazon VP Bill Carr announced yesterday that the retailer has agreed to start offering movies on UltraViolet, but for some reason didn't reveal the studio.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read

Amazon has become the first major retailer to agree to sell films on the UltraViolet platform and the Web's biggest store is starting with movies from Warner Bros., multiple film-industry sources told CNET.

Amazon VP Bill Carr announced during a panel discussion at CES yesterday that the retailer had struck a UV deal with a single Hollywood studio, but he declined to identify which one or provide many details about the agreement.

Carr was joined on stage by members of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), the consortium that founded UV. Among them were top executives from Sony, Warner Bros., Fox, and Universal, four of the five Hollywood studios supporting UV.

Why such secrecy? A deal with Warner won't surprise many. Warner, the studio behind the "The Hangover," and the "Harry Potter" movies, is one of the biggest studios and one of UV's biggest supporters among the 70 DECE member companies.

Warner representatives declined to comment and Amazon did not respond to an interview request.

I'd love to know what kind of terms Amazon received. UV appears to have been heading into CES without a big retail partner on board and the potential embarrassment over that likely gave Amazon the upper hand in talks. Now, we have to see how many of the other studios will get their own Amazon deals and whether Amazon's adoption of UV will help attract other retailers.

Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at research firm Frost & Sullivan, said he hopes the Amazon deal will mark a change in direction for the studios' UV strategy. Rayburn is hoping it will be less focused on physical discs.

So far "the studios aren't saying to the consumer, 'Hey we want to give you more digital content,'" Rayburn said. "They're saying 'Hey, we want to give you more digital content after you buy a physical disc.' Who does that benefit? The studio. What's the benefit to the consumer? None."

So far, the only way to get access to a UV digital locker is to first buy one of the 19 UV movies on physical disc. According to Rayburn, there are plenty of people out there who don't give a hoot about discs any longer and the studios aren't giving them what they want.

"Maybe there's more to [the Amazon agreement]," Rayburn said, "which could be good, but if nobody is willing to give more details there's no reason to get excited."

One more piece of UV information comes to us courtesy of Beet.TV and host Andy Plesser, who interviewed Sony Pictures CTO Mitch Singer following the UV panel. Singer disclosed that UV will come out with a common file format for downloads sometime this year.

UV enables users to download movies from their online lockers as well as stream, and a common file format would make it easier to work across differing DRM schemes, Singer said. You can view Singer's interview below.