I got a surprise the other day when I read the comments section of the MacWorld posting of an article I wrote about Veronica Mars, Kickstarter, and Ultraviolet. The Chief Technology Officer of UltraViolet parent company Rovi chose to respond publicly and call into question my basic journalistic integrity. After the cut, I've included his lengthy response, and my 1300-word shredding of said response, both of which can be found on the original MacWorld post.
Here is his definitively "class act" five paragraphs of "inaccuracy" "corrections":
I'm the CTO of UltraViolet. I would like to correct some inaccuracies in your article.
As an aside, I had problems posting, like another commenter. I tried to log in to my MacWorld account but it didn’t work, even after trying two different browsers. I finally had to switch to connecting via Twitter. I clicked on your name to look up your other articles, but MacWorld didn’t list any for “Moiss Chiullan” (apparently it can’t handle the é in your name). Writers for glass websites should be careful about throwing stones.
You perpetuate the myth that UltraViolet is “not widely adopted.” UltraViolet has been available for just over two years, yet has over 16 million users in 10 countries, accounting for over 10% of U.S. households. By that measure UltraViolet adoption has been faster than DVD, one of the fastest-growing technologies of all time. Compare UltraViolet to other services you mention at their second or third birthday and draw your own conclusion.
You state that “first, you have to sign up for an UltraViolet account at UVVU.com.” This is not correct. In fact we expect and encourage users to create an UltraViolet Library in tandem with signing up for one of the services that integrate with UltraViolet: Best Buy CinemaNow, Cineplex, Ezyflix, Flixster, JB Hi-Fi, Kaleidescape, M-Go, Paramount Movies, Sony Pictures Store, Target Ticket, Universal Hi-Def, and Walmart Vudu. In most cases this makes starting your UltraViolet Library as easy as ticking an extra checkbox. And it seems unreasonable to ding UltraViolet because people like Justin Bailey forgot to use the Flixster and UltraViolet accounts they already had, especially since many of the participating services check to see if you already have an UltraViolet account and offer to link it for you. It's true that early on it was harder than it should have been to create UltraViolet Library, but we we fixed that long ago.
iTunes is a great service, but it doesn’t work on Android phones and tablets, Windows Phone 8, Xbox, PlayStation, Roku, Kindle, Nook, Microsoft Surface (RT), Chromecast, Google TV, Blu-ray players, connected TVs, home media hubs, and more. UltraViolet does. Plus it provides a choice of multiple iOS apps. UltraViolet was created to provide an open market for all interested services and as many devices as possible. That’s also UltraViolet’s Achilles’ heel – it’s dependent on apps and services from many companies, so it’s not as seamless as a siloed service can be. Could UltraViolet and its partner services
be better? Sure. Does UltraViolet need more retailer apps in the UK and other countries? Absolutely – and they’re on their way. But the indisputable fact is that UltraViolet provides broader device reach in the US than any other online digital ownership service. (VHX, a distribution platform that takes 10% of every sale,
isn’t comparable.) We expect UltraViolet to achieve the same reach in many more countries.
As the comments here indicate, there are plenty of happy UltraViolet users. There’s no excuse for the failures and error messages that some people have experienced (and hopefully the Airplay/Apple TV mirroring issues will be resolved soon), but rather than reacting with vitriolic tweets and posts, a more productive approach is to contact Flixster customer support. They’re extremely helpful and can resolve most problems.
-- Jim Taylor
I hope the following addressed all of his issues, and I sincerely look forward to his response.
I can appreciate your instinct to be defensive. Were you open to it, I have a laundry list of questions I'd love to pose in the form of an interview, especially if, as you allege, I stand on the cracking crystal balcony of a crumbling palace made of glass. Truly, MacWorld/TechHive must be built on a Native American brutal ground of lies to have so crassly allowed UltraViolet to be so libeled (this is sarcasm, for clarification).
I really want UV to be better, and I believe people need diversity of choice.
I do, however, take exception to your claims of inaccuracy, and I find your statistic-based defense particularly specious. The following is my personal response, and is in no way driven by editorial at TechHive, MacWorld, or IDG in general.
"You perpetuate the myth that UltraViolet is “not widely adopted.” UltraViolet has been available for just over two years, yet has over 16 million users in 10 countries, accounting for over 10% of U.S. households."
Among all of my streaming media-consuming friends, I can count on one hand the number who use UltraViolet at all, and of them only two who find it to be a generally problem-free experience. Account generation is one thing. I would love to know stats that UV nor Netflix nor Amazon share, with regard to active account use.
How many of those 16 million accounts are being used, have been used at all, or have been untouched since a first attempt at use? Adoption/signup is radically easier to brag about than vigorous, broad-based usage. Again, I recognize that these numbers are not shared by ANY streaming storefront in a meaningful way, but that's exactly why you 16 million number, to me, could be "all hat, no cattle”, as we say in Texas.
As a result, the rapidity of "adoption" being tied to spikes undermines your argument as I delineate above. For example: the Digital Copy codes for the Harry Potter series suddenly switched to UV from iTunes with the 7th and 8th massively-selling installments of that series hitting Blu-ray/DVD. How many of the people who signed up at that spike point continued to use the service thereafter?
"You state that “first, you have to sign up for an UltraViolet account at UVVU.com.” This is not correct. In fact we expect and encourage users to create an UltraViolet Library in tandem with signing up for one of the services that integrate with UltraViolet: Best Buy CinemaNow, Cineplex, Ezyflix, Flixster, JB Hi-Fi, Kaleidescape, M-Go, Paramount Movies, Sony Pictures Store, Target Ticket, Universal Hi-Def, and Walmart Vudu."
This is a legitimate mistake on my part, but not due to laziness or incompetence. The mistake is due to incompetent and confusing messaging from UV/Flixster/everyone.
Is it your allegation that the (by my count) at minimum hundreds (yes, hundreds) of backers, commenters, tweeters who experienced signup issues who were under the impression they had to sign up separately are just willfully ignorant fools who don't follow instructions?
I signed up back when Green Lantern signaled the first-ever UV-code-carrying movie on Blu-ray. At the time, that was very much the process. Maybe it was possible to use a checkbox then as it allegedly is now, but I was too dense to see it if it was there.
"iTunes is a great service, but it doesn’t work on Android phones and tablets, Windows Phone 8, Xbox, PlayStation, Roku, Kindle, Nook, Microsoft Surface (RT), Chromecast, Google TV, Blu-ray players, connected TVs, home media hubs, and more. UltraViolet does."
The way you phrase this makes it look like I'm championing iTunes as the solution to the world's streaming ills. My main iTunes-related issue was Kickstarter advertising it on their frontage, but the related campaign not employing it as an OPTION. I never advocated it as The Solution. The WB lock-in to UV/Flixster was not upsetting because iTunes was the better option, but that it wasn't offered in addition to Amazon, both at least roughly as widely-adopted as UltraViolet.
"Could UltraViolet and its partner services be better? Sure. Does UltraViolet need more retailer apps in the UK and other countries? Absolutely – and they’re on their way. But the indisputable fact is that UltraViolet provides broader [*] device reach in the US than any other online digital ownership service."
You forgot to include the word "theoretical" where I left an asterisk in brackets up there. Again, demonstrate a statistic that corroborates this with regard to actual usage and spending of money. Say what you will about Apple's numbers, but $1.75billion/year and 350k/day in aggregate are pretty impressive stats!
UltraViolet numbers have never been made available, and are bundled in with packaged media and other electronic sales in aggregate, with reporting broken down only by studio.
“(VHX, a distribution platform that takes 10% of every sale, isn’t comparable.)”
Odd that you make a parenthetical swipe at VHX while also missing the point of my including them in the article. VHX is an example of diversifying distribution in this context, something that they heavily advocate for doing. The limitation of choice w/r/t WB not giving backers the option of more than just “their” storefront. The reaction would not have been so virulent and so widespread had only a tiny fraction of people had no issues.
As the comments here indicate, there are plenty of happy UltraViolet users.
The clinical term for this posturing is “bullshit”. I’m not saying there aren’t satisfied users out there, but your “dispelling of myths” has turned into you spinning them yourself. If UV is so full of “plenty” of happy users, why is the consortium afraid of quoting revenue data?
“There’s no excuse for the failures and error messages that some people have experienced (and hopefully the Airplay/Apple TV mirroring issues will be resolved soon)…”
Agreed 100%. Your platform should scale to a rapid increase in signups when it can be anticipated (like at the time redemption codes are distributed to thousands of new users in concert with a major Kickstarter campaign), and your Content Delivery Network should scale up to offer people stutter-free streaming, like other “widely adopted” services.
“…but rather than reacting with vitriolic tweets and posts, a more productive approach is to contact Flixster customer support. They’re extremely helpful and can resolve most problems.”
People reacted this way because, as they posted in their…screeds…Flixster support not only didn’t respond satisfactorily, they didn’t respond at all. Eventually, all these people were directed to contact customer service for the Kickstarter campaign itself, since Flixster was completely silent. Find me one instance of Flixster support responding to and resolving one of these issues.
UltraViolet is not a “download” or “offline” service. Technically, yes, one can download the content and play it back in a very limited context of devices relative to mainstream viewing. It is an option that works for some people. In assailing people for not crafting their viewing options around UltraViolet compatibility, you come off like an Apple/iTunes zealot, which is how you paint me in your response.
In case I’ve not made it clear enough yet, my article is about offering a reasonable array of multi-platform choice based on what consumers actually use. Your definition of offering diverse choice is one of the not-so-diverse rainbow of UltraViolet flavors.
I'm also not that hard to find online. I'm still the only person on the planet with my name, and unlike yours, my Twitter account is not "protected". Since you decided this was the best way to take issue with my article, I chose to respond in-kind.
I forgot to ask him what percentage UltraViolet makes from content makers, but I'm sure that's a per-studio deal that he couldn't share due to NDA restrictions. I look forward to his theoretical response, or an on-record opportunity to interview him or anyone at UltraViolet/Rovi.