I walked into Best Buy this Black Friday and I wanted to pick up some movies on deep discount. There were a few films that were marked down to less than $10 on Blu Ray that I really wanted to add to my collection, and figured enduring the mass of people shopping that day was worth it.
The trip proved to be fruitful, as I was able to get 5 movies that I really loved on Blu Ray for less than $30 total. Even better, all 5 films came with a digital copy, which is how I really would prefer to watch. Sweet!
Now I have always preferred digital copies that I can redeem through iTunes, but that seems to have fallen out of favor with movie studios (besides Disney), and now everything comes with one of these UltraViolet copies. Well, I thought to myself, maybe this is just what the norm is these days and I should just go with it. I remember people talking shit about this service when it launched in 2013.
Oh boy, was I wrong.
No UltraViolet redemption went smoothly (2 of them still haven’t worked), but I have to single out Ghostbusters from Sony Pictures for having the absolutely worst redemption process I have ever experienced.
Total time: 45 minutes
We want to watch this on the TV in the living room, but can’t use the Blu Ray because my in-laws don’t have a Blu Ray player. No problem, I tell them. I’ll redeem the digital copy and we can use one of the many devices in the house to get it on the TV. UltraViolet is the industry standard, so given the multitude of phones, tablets, and streaming devices in the house we’ll be able to get it up and running in no time.
This was my first UltraViolet code, and this is where the shit show begins. I went to the URL listed in the box, entered my code, and was then informed that I would have to sign into my Sony account to redeem this code. Okay, no big deal, I have a Sony account that I use on my PlayStation every day, so I’ll sign in with that.
Oh no! That will not do, as I need to have a Sony Rewards account. Something I have no interest in having, but I guess I need to redeem what I have already paid for. I create the account, and get the confirmation email that tells me I need to answer a few questions before my Rewards account is fully activated. The questionnaire they present me has no less than 50(!) questions on it about what devices I own, what movie genres I like, what games I play, and what my annual household income is. I can not skip questions, and have to answer page after page of questions completely randomly.
At this point, I’m sitting in the living room at my in-laws’ house, cursing at my computer while I try to get this damn digital code redeemed so that we can all watch Ghostbusters. Their good-hearted jabs make me laugh, but inside I’m screaming at Sony to just give me the fucking movie!
I finally prove my worth and get through the Sony Rewards gauntlet. My account is set up and I have earned 45 rewards points, something that I promise you I will never use. But fine, I’m ready, so what do I do now?
The Sony Rewards page tells me that I have redeemed my movie code successfully, but I can not watch it in Sony’s website or app, I need to connect my Sony Rewards account to my UltraViolet account. I do this, and now my accounts are linked.
But is my copy of Ghostbusters now in my library? Nope, of course it fucking isn’t.
Now I need to choose which UltraViolet service I want to redeem the code through. I can choose from VUDU, Flixster, and some other service that I can’t even fucking remember at this point. I don’t know those are the services because UltraViolet displayed them nicely to me, no, the UltraViolet site was using bad image links, so the 3 services were shown and white squares with radio buttons next to them. I had to view the page source to see what those links were supposed to be to in order to see what each one way.
I’m about to put my fist through a wall.
After cleverly outsmarting the UltraViolet site, I find that I don’t have any of these, so I open a new tab and create a VUDU account, because who the fuck cares?
To be clear, at this point I have needed to have accounts with Sony Rewards, UltraViolet, and VUDU in order to redeem this simple digital copy of a movie I’ve already paid for.
With new shiny VUDU account in hand, I go back to the UltraViolet site, choose VUDU as my redemption source, and hit next. It works! I am taken to my VUDU account and Ghostbusters is in there!
Alright, final step: I need this to play on the TV for the family.
My wife’s parents have an Amazon Fire Stick, which I hear has everything I could ever want to watch stuff on TV. We search their app store for “UltraViolet”: no results. No bother, they probably want you to use one of their partners’ apps. I just set up a VUDU account, and I’ve heard about VUDU before so they must have an app. We search for “VUDU” and again are greeted with no results. We try “Flixster” and “CinemaNow” as well and the results are always the same: there are none.
So I’ve gone through all this time and work only to find out that none of the ways you can watch UltraViolet are available on one of the biggest streaming boxes on the market.
We’ve got one more shot. My wife and I have our Apple TV with us and plug it into the TV and figure there must be an UltraViolet, VUDU, Flixster, or CinemaNow app on the Apple TV App Store.
I collapse in defeat and my wife runs down to the Red Box a few blocks away to rent the DVD for $1.
Epilogue: In the literally 3 minutes it took my wife to pick up and return with the DVD, I was able to redeem The Grand Budapest Hotel through the Google Play Store and have time left over to make myself a nice Thanksgiving leftovers snack.