If you’ve been following the media news lately, you probably heard about the new “Ultraviolet” program that is under development. In essence, a large group of media companies (supposedly 58) , including NBC, Comcast, Lion Gates, Universal, Sony Pictures, and Microsoft, are working on a single version of copy protection for digital content that would allow you to manage the content online and access it from multiple devices.
Amit Khanna, the chairman of Reliance Entertainment, calls this “Round Casting”. He gives the example that you can drive in your car listening to music. As soon as you get out of your car, the same music should start playing on your iPod. To continue his example, when you reach your desk, the same music should then play from your computer. There is a good chance that all this music is being streamed straight on the net, rather than being stored on each device.
There are a couple of different ways that the Ultraviolet system could pan out:
1. You pay monthly subscriptions to access lots of stuff. All the companies involved pool together their content and you can access it all on any device. I’m sure there would be levels of access, with basic and premium subscriptions. This path means that we never actually buy media, we just access it.
2. We still buy songs/movies etc, but they are optimized to work across multiple devices easily, and if you delete them, it is easy to download the same content again. This also gives the option of sharing your purchases with friends, exactly as if you are loaning them a book or CD. Your friend accesses your media from your online library, and while it is checked out to them, you can’t access it.
Another concept that Amit Khanna has spoken about is the idea of creating different versions of the same content, designed for different devises. Right now there are film companies that are offering edited down versions of their films for viewing on a mobile phone. What if those mobile phone versions had actually been planned right from the script/production stage? Small screens require more close up shots for example. A film could be storyboarded and then shot for multiple devices. If I watch a film on my phone and love it, then I might choose to also get the larger screen version for my TV, much as successful films today release Director’s Cuts on DVD that differ from the original.