You should be using Movies Anywhere

It’s not perfect, but it stands the best chance yet

In the days before digital streaming became prevalent movie ownership was relatively straightforward (most of the time, anyways.) You bought your physical media in the form of a VHS or a DVD or eventually a Blu-Ray and so long as you had hardware new enough to support the media you simply plopped it in and hit play. What a time to be alive. But as digital streaming services like Netflix and digital storefronts like iTunes and Google Play gained steam by leveraging their convenience and the proliferation of high-speed internet, physical media started to lose relevance. It started to get bad enough that sometime between the demise of Blockbuster and declining sales distributors began offering bundles that included digital copy codes. This is where modern day movie ownership woes began.

You may remember a time around 2011 when movie bundles began featuring UltraViolet branding, although I’m willing to forgive you if you don’t because the branding fell progressively out of favor. This was the first major digital rights locker for movies, in theory a place where you could store and get access to all of the digital movies you had bought anywhere, but despite massive amounts of backing by a large number of major studios it ultimately failed to gain traction. This was due in no small part to the noteworthy omitted partner names: Disney, Google, Apple, and Amazon. This meant that you couldn’t get access to any Disney properties nor could you link and include your movies bought through these popular digital storefronts. The only popular storefront you could actually use in conjunction with UltraViolet was Walmart’s Vudu which simply wasn’t enough.

And that’s kind of a huge problem, can you imagine not being able to have access to Star Wars on a movie ownership service?

Odds are that if you purchase digital movies you do so through Google, Apple, or Amazon. The logic behind which you buy from is likely due to the ecosystem you’ve invested in whether it be iOS and the Apple TV or Android and Chromecast or even Amazon and the Fire TV. Most of the time this is fine, but it’s when you go to watch a movie you own at a friend or family member’s place on a device ecosystem you didn’t buy into that there exists a problem: you simply can’t. And if you wanted to make the jump into a different ecosystem? You’re either forced to leave behind all of the content you’ve purchased or forced to reconsider your decision to leave that ecosystem.

Enter Movies Anywhere, the proposed solution to all of these major concerns.

Launched on October 12th as a partnership between Disney, Google, Apple, Amazon, and most major movie studios Movies Anywhere sought to finally bring all of the content you own into a single library. In short you can buy movies from any digital storefront and find them populating in your Movies Anywhere account as well as see them being shared across digital libraries from Google, Vudu, Amazon, and Apple. You can even enter those codes found in physical movie bundles and add them to your Movies Anywhere collection.

Moving forward you can add to your collection directly through the application or website. The only real caveat being that on iOS devices you’re directed to buy solely from Apple’s own iTunes per the App Store guidelines. This is a little frustrating, but you can still go out to another retailer’s website and make the purchase with the associated account and see your movies added to the Movies Anywhere library that way. On Android you’re offered the full array of storefront options to choose from. What this effectively means is that you’re now welcome to buy movies from whichever retailer currently has the best deal without having to consider which device you’ll ultimately want to watch on. This finally forces retailers to compete on price rather than ecosystem lock-in, a welcome change for all consumers.

Android allows you to buy from anyone, but Apple would still prefer you bought on iTunes.

With applications on every major platform (iOS, Apple TV, Android, Android TV, Fire TV, and Roku) and zero costs it seems like a no-brainer, and for the most part it really is one. The applications are already live everywhere and all you need to do to get started is hook up the accounts you’ve purchased or redeemed movies from in the past. Currently the supported accounts you can link are Vudu, Google Play, iTunes, and Amazon Video. All of which I got connected quickly and which cover a majority of the digital storefront spectrum. In fact as a perk for providing two different accounts you receive five free movies, and they’re not even bad!

Not everything has gone as smoothly as advertised though, and the few players that have sat out the launch can already be felt in my Movies Anywhere library.

While I can confirm that, as bizarre as it is to see, both my Google Play and iTunes purchases sit side by side in my Movies Anywhere library with no obvious differences, the promise of my movies flowing among the respective libraries hasn’t yet come to fruition. Some of the content I’ve redeemed with iTunes hasn’t made the jump to my Google Play library and vice versa despite successfully integrating in the Movies Anywhere application.

In addition to that hiccup I’ve already seen some content from holdouts Lionsgate and Paramount, such as Skyfall or Interstellar, noticeably absent in my combined library. It stands to reason that as Movies Anywhere gains momentum these omissions won’t last but they remain irksome for now. And though support for television shows seems like a logical next step it’s not one that Disney or any other Movies Anywhere partner has spoken to as a possibility in the future, but a guy can hope.

Movies don’t always seem to end up ‘anywhere’ but they do usually end up in Movies Anywhere.

Device support could be better also. Those that stream primarily from video game consoles are currently left out in the cold unless they utilize some less than ideal workarounds for playback, a la the YouTube application.

I won’t pretend that we’ve yet returned to the blissful ubiquity of physical media ownership, but Movies Anywhere is a huge step in the right direction and it’s hard to think of any compelling reason to not at least give it a try. So head on over to Movies Anywhere and start watching some stuff, alright?