Set-top box movie service Vudu claimed a first today, offering download to-own movies in HD, albeit with a very limited catalog and high prices.
Previously, the company (like its competitors, which include Apple and Microsoft) offered HD content for rental only, but now customers can choose to pay between $13.99 and $23.99 to actually own the movies they download, which can be either stored on their Vudu hard drives or on the company’s own servers through its Vudu Vault ‘backup’ service. The only studios to be on board so far, however, are independents FirstLook, Kino and Magnolia Pictures, who together will begin by offering just 50 titles (compared to the 1,400 HD movies that Vudu makes available for rental), including “War, Inc.”, “Transsiberian” and “Man on Wire”. Moving forward, each participating studio has agreed to license new releases for sale in HD through Vudu on the same day and date as their DVD release.
Limited content aside, Vudu’s pricing remains too high, a problem not specific to the service but one that the company has failed to address nonetheless. As Streaming Media’s Dan Rayburn writes, it’s probably not Vudu’s fault, as the pricing will have been dictated by the studios themselves. Either way, as far as consumers are concerned, downloads of any sort – even in HD – shouldn’t cost the same or more than the DVD equivalent. And the issue is further compounded when you factor in that Vudu’s use of a proprietary video format (however high quality) and its copy-protection scheme means that content can’t be moved to other devices and is completely reliant on the company staying in business, which in the nascent market of video downloads is far from guaranteed.