For the last few years, a consortium of most of the big Hollywood studios and most of the big consumer tech companies has been promoting a Web-based “locker” system, which sounds like a good idea: You buy a movie once — either on a disc or via a digital store — and you get the ability to watch it on any device you want, whenever you want.
But by its backers’ own admission, that plan — dubbed “UltraViolet” — hasn’t worked, for a bunch of reasons. One of them is that two really big players — Disney and Apple — haven’t been part of the system.
So here’s another, separate, Web-based locker system — based purely on Disney movies, and endorsed by Apple. It’s hard to see how this one will do much better.
For the record, there’s nothing actively bad about Disney Movies Anywhere, which Disney has been working on, in one form or another, for years. It’s the same idea as UltraViolet: If you buy, or have bought, a Disney movie on disc, the service provides a digital locker — in the form of an app and a website — that you can use to stream or download the movie to other devices.
So that’s nice.
Disney is also playing up the idea that its service syncs with your iTunes collection, so you can use it to play Disney movies you’ve bought from iTunes. But you have to think really, really hard before you can come up with a scenario where this improves things for consumers — since they can already do this, via iTunes.*
If this sounds appealing to you and you’re an Apple customer, then you’re in luck. Disney Movies Anywhere works with Apple’s iTunes store and iOS devices** as well as laptops and PCs. But while Disney says it can and will add other retailers and tech platforms, it won’t say when. So people who spend most of their media time with Google’s and Amazon’s stuff don’t need to pay attention to this.
But the fundamental problem with Disney Movies Anywhere is right there in the name. It’s a silo for the Disney brand, which may make sense to people who work at Disney, but not for the rest of us.
My kids love Disney movies, and we own a bunch of them. But we also own both of Universal’s “Despicable Me” movies, and whenever Warner Bros.’ “The Lego Movie” comes out, we’ll own that too.
So if someone figures out how to get all that stuff in one place, and then really lets me play it anywhere I want, let me know. That sounds pretty good.
* I think the one upside here would be if you were using a laptop or PC, but didn’t have iTunes installed on the machine. Then you could use the service to stream the movies from the Web.
** Disney and Apple have been close since Steve Jobs sold Pixar to Disney in 2006.