One platform to rule them all, one platform to bind them.
Wait — isn’t that a reference from the Warner Bros. property The Lord of the Rings, you ask? Isn’t this an item about the new “Disney Movies Anywhere?”
And so it is. Because Disney Movies Anywhere isn’t just for Disney movies anymore.
Starting Wednesday night, for the first time in the history of “owning” digital movies, there’s a place where you can store and access nearly all of your digital movie purchases from Disney, Warner Bros., Fox, Sony and Universal Pictures. (Paramount, home of the Star Trek and Transformers films, is the lone major holdout. Boooo, Paramount.)
If you like buying digital movies outright, you’re definitely going to want to sign up
Originally just for Disney movies, the now 3-year-old Disney Movies Anywhere service now ports over titles from the other four studios named above — as long as you bought them on either Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes or Vudu.
All users need to do is link those accounts through their Disney Movies Anywhere account and voila!, there they all are, your movies in one place, the dream is real. (You can use the digital codes from subsequent physical DVD/Blu-ray purchases to synch them into your library, too.)
Disney Movies Anywhere can be accessed through an array of devices including Amazon Fire, most Android and Apple devices, Chromecast, Roku, that old thing called “the internet” and others, with more to come.
I was shown a demo Wednesday that was fairly nifty: If you have, say, movies on iTunes and Vudu accounts, you simply sign in to those accounts through Disney Movies Anywhere and they immediately show up in your library on the platform.
And no matter what studio made them, copies of those titles — more than 7,000 all lumped together — live on the new platform, so you’re not streaming them through a third-party client (and isn’t it nice to know that your locker of digital movies exists with a reliable company that’s going to be alive and supported ad infinitum?).
Ultraviolet, the previous multi-studio digital locker, never really took off with consumers because it’s missing a couple of key ingredients: interlinking with the big digital retailers like Amazon, Google and iTunes — and, well, Disney movies.
Disney never licensed its content for Ultraviolet (which most studios aren’t even calling “Ultraviolet” on disc packages anymore, just “Digital Movies”), in no small part because it knew the day would come when it would do its own thing on the back of its powerful library.
You can purchase movies from participating studios on Disney Movies Anywhere — to do so, it briefly and seamlessly takes you out to one of its retail partners if it’s not a Disney movie — which then immediately appear in your Movies Anywhere library. New sign-ups get free copies of Ghostbusters, Ice Age, Big Hero 6, Jason Bourne and The LEGO Movie, depending on which services they link.
The interface is pretty simple, if nothing special — you can sort by “recently added,” A-to-Z and Z-to-A, but there’s no categories or customization. If you own a huge library of digital movies, you’ll just have to know what you want to find. But Disney tells me those capabilities will be coming.
There’s also no rental or streaming option here — Disney Movies Anywhere is just a platform for digital sell-through, which is the most expensive digital option, but also the first available, sometimes weeks before physical discs and many months before streaming.
It’s not yet clear what Disney is getting out of this; they wouldn’t tell me what, if any, slice of a sale they get from a film that gets ported over to their platform.
But Disney Movies Anywhere might be the solution to a bigger problem than just another revenue stream: The movie industry has been trying to crack the digital-locker model for many years, and Ultraviolet may wind up being the Beta to Disney Movies Anywhere’s VHS — a format that worked fine but was ultimately leapfrogged as consumers made their preference known.
Buying digital movies outright for as much as $19.99 isn’t for everyone. But everyone who buys digital movies outright is going to want to sign up for this service that’s been a long time coming.