Do We Really Need Disney’s New Proprietary Movies Anywhere Digital Locker?

The Incredibles

If trying to figure out how to use Ultraviolet wasn’t already difficult enough, we now have yet another "digital movie locker" storage-retrieval-repository thingy in which to house our digitally downloaded movies.

Walt Disney Studios just announced it has launched Disney Movies Anywhere, a proprietary, cloud-based digital locker that gives movie fans access to Disney's digital library of over 400 Disney, Pixar, and Marvel Studios movies to watch on the computer, iPad, iPhone, or Apple TV.

It’s no coincidence that Disney’s digital release of the Oscar-nominated animated feature Frozen and Thor: the Dark World coincide with the Movies Anywhere announcement as the company hopes to capitalize on the popularity of those titles to avoid the same sluggish start as that of 2011’s Ultraviolet, a similar digital locker service used by every major film studio except Disney. Ultraviolet has failed to gain the traction it had hoped for due to numerous misperceptions about its “anytime, anywhere” availability coupled with a double-login interface and confusion about where one can actually view legally downloaded movies.

The Perception is Reality

The studios are slowly moving in the right direction by granting digital online access to purchased films and TV shows rather than resisting technological trends. However, the perceived confusion with multiple “digital lockers” and how and where to access them is real.

For instance, in researching for this article, I set up a Disney Movies Anywhere account by downloading the free app on my iPad. Upon attempting to create a new account, I eventually discovered, after previously hunting-and-pecking a full screen-load of personal information, that I had already set up a Disney account some time ago. Naturally, I couldn’t remember the password and locked myself out after numerous failed attempts. So, after a password retrieval process that sent the link to an old e-mail address that I rarely check any more, I was able to finally login to my Disney Movies Anywhere account. Success?

With a twinkle of anticipation in my eye, I poked my finger on the Disney Movies Anywhere App. No sooner does it launch than it is asking for a connection to my iTunes account which, you guessed it, needs a password. After granting that access, I’m finally able to view my free copy of The Incredibles that comes with sign up. Success!

However, a random, quick browse through my iTunes account revealed a long-since-forgotten download of The Purge, which I never watched. Then, glancing at my Ultraviolet account, I noticed four other movies I downloaded some time ago after I purchased the titles on Blu-ray. However, clicking “play” in the Ultraviolet app launches a message asking for passworded access to my Warner account before I can watch the movies in a Flixster app. In other words, my purchased movies are scattered all over tarnation with multiple modes of access, different passwords, numerous apps, and very little knowledge on my part about how or where to watch them. To add to the confusion, Disney movies purchased through the new Disney Movies Anywhere service are viewed in iTunes on the computer, but through the Disney Movies app on hand-held devices.

The Studios Are Doing it All Wrong

This entire convoluted process only further highlights how the studios are doing this all wrong. While the need to protect media properties and intellectual copyrights is firmly understood and respected, there has to be a better way than the proprietary development of more movie-watching apps and digital lockers.

"We had always made the decision that we were going to do something different," said Jamie Voris, Walt Disney Studios' chief technology officer. "For us, it was really about waiting until we felt that we had ... something that we felt was worthy of our brand, and something our customers would expect from us."

Hey, Mr. Voris, we don’t care about slickly-produced Disney-branded apps or mind-blowing “digital lockers.” In the case of watching movies on handheld devices, one simple, easily-accessed movie repository is best. Is it asking too much to turn on an iPad or iPhone, scan through an entire movie collection, and push play?

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