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Why Veronica Mars embraced UltraViolet and angered fans

By Moisés Chiullan | March 17, 2014
The campaign to revive Veronica Mars delivered a number of cool things--an enormous number of new Kickstarter users and, lest we forget, a full-length motion picture of a deeply loved TV series that arrived Friday. But the movie's arrival introduced something else to Veronica Mars fans: their first interaction with the UltraViolet video locker service, the method the movie's distributors are using to fulfill the downloads promised to people who backed the movie on Kickstarter. It's been ugly, to say the least.

The campaign to revive Veronica Mars delivered a number of cool things — an enormous number of new Kickstarter users and, lest we forget, a full-length motion picture of a deeply loved TV series that arrived Friday. But the movie's arrival introduced something else to Veronica Mars fans: their first interaction with the UltraViolet video locker service, the method the movie's distributors are using to fulfill the downloads promised to people who backed the movie on Kickstarter. It's been ugly, to say the least.

UltraViolet is a studio-backed system that came about as a response to the massive success of Apple's iTunes as a digital media storefront. Understandably, the movie and TV studios did not want to be beholden to Apple as they felt the music industry had become. The problem is that the catch-all solution the studios came up with is neither intuitive nor convenient — and as consequence, not widely adopted. And that's a problem for a few reasons. First, device compatibility is problematic, especially if you're an iOS user who wants to watch the movie on your TV. And second, signing up for the UltraViolet service is complicated and messy.

A journalist's blow-by-blow account of signing up for the two accounts necessary to redeem a single code is indicative of the average (awful) user experience that has plagued the service since UltraViolet's inception.

The experience of signing up for UltraViolet is completely unlike signing up for an AppleID or Amazon account.

First, you have to sign up for an UltraViolet account at UVVU.com, a logical, easy-to-remember (not really) acronym for a service that legally can't live on an individual studio or recognized brand's website.

Second, you need to sign up for an UltraViolet-backed service like Flixster, formerly owned by Fox and now owned by Veronica Mars distributor Warner Bros. When forced to use UltraViolet, I prefer Vudu, even though it's owned by Walmart. Other options include CinemaNow (Best Buy) and Target Ticket (Target).

And possibly third, you may find that the service that you chose is "already linked to an UltraViolet account." You may have signed up in the past and forgot about it, back when the service in question was owned by a different company or went by another name or identity. (Flixster, for example, snagged its first big wave of users as a Facebook app.) Or you might have tried to redeem a digital copy of a disc from a studio that doesn't give you the option of redeeming via iTunes or Amazon.

And if you want to watch the movie on your TV via an Apple TV? Forget it. The iOS apps don't support AirPlay or external monitors, and there's no Vudu or Flixster app for Apple TV. If you're a fan of both Apple and Veronica Mars who wants to watch your Kickstarter reward on the TV, using the Flixster or Vudu apps for the PlayStation or Xbox might be your best bet.

 

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