Is Streaming the Way of the Future?
Disney Movies Online has been the digital streaming service for the company since 2008. If you had a Disney Magic Rewards account, whenever you redeemed the code for any Disney DVD or Blu-ray Disc that included a Digital Copy, you also unlocked a streaming copy of that film through your Disney Movies Online account. It was all automatic; you didn’t have to do anything except redeem your Magic Rewards Code and Disney did the rest for you.
If you redeemed a Magic Rewards Code for a DVD or Blu-ray Disc that did not include a Digital Copy, Disney offered to let you purchase the streaming rights to that film at a discounted rate. You could also outright buy the streaming rights to any film in their streaming library.
Disney Movies Online members received the following in an email recently:
Disney Movies Online is closing on December 31st. As part of this change, purchases, upgrades, and Magic Code entries can no longer be made on the Disney Movies Online website. You can continue to stream your existing movies until December 31st.
While this is unfortunate for users of Disney’s service, the greater question is what this portends for other streaming services. We’ve been told for a while now that the future of home video will be streaming, and that physical media formats (DVD, Blu-ray Disc) are to be phased out of production. Skeptics have wondered how reliable this streaming world would be and today’s news about Disney Movies Online illustrates their point perfectly.
Most of the major studios collaborated last year to launch the UltraViolet digital streaming program. Just like Disney Movies Online, consumers who purchase DVDs or Blu-ray Discs of participating titles can redeem a code to unlock streaming access to the same title. Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. are all participants in the UltraViolet ecosystem.
The closing of Disney Movies Online prompts one to wonder about the reliability and stability of UltraViolet going forward. Presently, the UltraViolet FAQ page offers the following answer to “What is an ‘UltraViolet right’?”
When you purchase UltraViolet-enabled movies or TV shows, you get more than just a disc or single-use stream. You also get additional rights that represent other ways you can enjoy your UltraViolet movie or TV show.
Example UltraViolet rights include the following:
– The right to download a digital copy of something you purchased on Blu-ray
– The right to stream a show to your smartphone when you’re on vacation, while your DVD copy sits safely on a shelf at home
– The right to create or obtain a physical copy, such as a disc or memory card copy
The very next question asks, “Will my UltraViolet rights expire?”
No, your rights to the UltraViolet movies and TV shows in your UltraViolet Collection do not expire. Content providers may limit the time you have to redeem an UltraViolet code that comes with a Blu-ray Disc or DVD, but after you have redeemed your rights to the movie or TV show, your rights do not expire.
No mention is made, however, of what may happen if the studios abandon UltraViolet.
Kudos to Disney for taking the lead on streaming rights for physical disc purchases, but there was one chief problem for consumers: the only way to stream their content was through a computer. There were no dedicated Disney Movies Online channels on streaming players, meaning that access to the streaming library was highly restrictive.
UltraViolet users, meanwhile, can access their streaming library through a few different means: directly through the UltraViolet website, any linked websites (such as the UltraViolet dedicated site of each studio), or through your Vudu account, which can be accessed through several different models of streaming players.
It seems likely that Disney is entertaining the idea of joining UltraViolet in 2013, which would be terrific going forward but it still leaves DMO consumers out in the cold regarding their libraries built to this point. Ideally, if Disney should join the UltraViolet ecosystem, they would find a way to migrate users’ already redeemed streaming rights.
For now, UltraViolet is the digital streaming standard but the closure of Disney Movies Online gives us pause to wonder whether those UltraViolet rights really won’t “expire”. Streaming may be the future, but as Yogi Berra once noted, “The future isn’t what it used to be.”