The goal is to create an industry standard to provide consumers who buy digital copies of movies additional features, much like they experience when they buy DVD and Blu-ray discs. “We have seen in all of our research and studies with consumers that they’d like to see a better price-value relationship around digital ownership,” Sony Pictures Home Entertainment EVP of Worldwide Digital and Commercial Strategy Jim Underwood tells me. Sony and Wal-Mart will kick things off today by offering what they call VUDU Extras+, a collection of enhancements for those who buy streaming rights to a movie from Wal-Mart’s service or redeem their UltraViolet code on VUDU and watch the movie on a PC or Mac. They’ll be included with the sci-fi thriller District 9. Later this year Sony will include VUDU Extras+ with This Is the End, After Earth, White House Down, Grown Ups 2, Mortal Instruments, Smurfs 2, and One Direction — This Is Us. There’ll be no difference in price vs versions without the extras. One feature, “Enhanced Scene Search,” enables viewers to use dialogue or other cues to jump to favorite scenes. Another feature, “Clip & Share,” makes it easy to post certain scenes to Facebook or Twitter. (Probably not any scenes with nudity — and friends will be encouraged to buy the film, of course.) Although some retailers already offer additional content, “many of the extras out there now are a separately viewed file,” Underwood says. “In the digital space we believe the extras should have interactivity and the ability to engage with them in real time while you’re watching the film.”
Although Sony’s beginning with Wal-Mart, “we’d love for other retailers to engage with this standard,” Underwood says. “We’ve also started talking quietly with other studios….Realistically you could probably expect to see other studios offer films in this way through VUDU because VUDU knows how to do it.” A lot of capabilities are yet to come: Sony plans at some point to include traditional extras such as director commentary and deleted scenes. The extras won’t work with mobile devices or video devices just yet, but that’s also in the works. And while they start off with streamed movies, they’ll also at some point show up with downloads.