Posts Tagged ‘Vudu’

VOD service Vudu to become Wal-Mart's child

vuduAfter rumors circulated in January that US retail giant Wal-Mart was eying the video-on-demand service Vudu, the New York Times is reporting that it’s a done deal. Still no official word from either company but Dan Rayburn via one of his sources says the ink has dried and that’s good enough for me. It’s also an interesting end to a pretty long story:

Vudu started as a feisty silicon valley startup, unfashionably entering the consumer hardware space with its own set-top and accompanying HD video download store. Whilst its offering received good reviews based on the UI, movies were relatively expensive, as was the box itself, and I was always skeptical that consumers in great numbers would pay for hardware just to enter the store. The Vudu box was a one trick pony, providing a store front to the company’s content, or that’s how it felt to me. Competing consumer set-top boxes seemed to offer a lot more.

Eventually, Vudu opened up a little, supporting services other than its own, and lowered the price of its entry level hardware, but that still didn’t seem to be cutting it.

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Roku launches app store for its set-top box – adds Flickr, Facebook, Pandora and others

Roku’s $100 set-top box (U.S.-only) just got even more compelling. The company has launched its own app store of sorts – called the ‘Channel Store’ – that brings a growing number of third-party content sources to the device including Pandora (music streaming) Facebook photos, Flickr (photo sharing), along with FrameChannel, Mediafly’s podcast directory, Revision3 and more. Dave Zatz over at Zatz Not Funny has a few screen grabs and a nifty walk-through video (embedded above). The new content ‘widgets’ join existing partnerships with Netflix, Amazon VOD, and MLB.TV.

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Vudu now offering Disney HD movies for purchase on same 'day and date' as Blu-ray

Disney HD content for purchase on Vudu

Disney HD content for purchase on Vudu

Vudu (U.S.-only) is to offer new Disney HD releases for purchase through its set-top box movie service on the same “day and date” as their competing DVD/Blu-ray release. It’s the first time that Disney has broadly licensed its content in HD for sale through an online video service, beyond one-off offerings or ‘rental-only’, says Vudu. Alongside new releases, 60 library films are also being added to Vudu’s ‘for purchase’ HD catalog. Disney chose to work with Vudu, says the company, “in large part because of the [picture] quality” offered by the service.

Interestingly, Steve Jobs, the guy who runs Apple, is also Disney’s majority shareholder after the motion picture company bought animation studio Pixar a few years back. Therefore, I wonder how long it will be before iTunes secures the same access to Disney’s HD library as Vudu, if it hasn’t already.

Vudu to power telcos' pay-per-view IPTV offerings

Vudu on Entone

Vudu on Entone

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

We already knew that Vudu’s future lies outside of its own set-top box. The Internet TV startup said as much in what looked like a change of strategy following a recent round of layoffs. Rather than punting the online video store via its own hardware alone, Vudu announced plans to “piggyback” third-party devices, including Internet-connected TVs, DVD players and other kinds of set-top boxes. And today, the first of those partnerships was unveiled.

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Voodoo Chile: Pandora lands on Vudu set-top box

No longer a ‘one trick pony’, Vudu’s ambition to become a fully-fledged platform, capable of pulling in content from a range of third-party services, appears to be bearing fruit.

Today the company announced that owners of its set-top box now have access to Internet radio service Pandora. Features include support for multiple Pandora accounts, “enabling every member of the family to play his or her own personalized Pandora stations”, along with the ability to create custom stations and tweak them dynamically by thumbing tracks up or down.

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Would you bet your HD movie collection on a startup staying in business?

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.

See also: Vudu’s latest price cut is a start, here’s what else they need to do

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.

Vudu's latest price cut is a start, here's what else they need to do

It feels like deja vu. Set-top movie service Vudu has slashed its prices again. The entry level Vudu box can now be purchased for $149 (down from $295), and this time without any kind of mail in rebate. That said, the box still doesn’t feature built-in WiFi connectivity, so the company has also “slashed” the price of its optional wireless kit to $79. Add the two together and the price is a less enticing $228.

Of course, any price cut is a welcome one and, slowly but surely, Vudu is getting closer to the ‘feels like free’ price point that I’ve argued is needed if the service is ever to go mass market. For that to happen, however, here’s what else Vudu needs to do…

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Amid layoffs, Vudu concedes its future lies outside of its own set-top box

Despite making its own range of set-top boxes, including two high end devices aimed at home theatre enthusiasts, Vudu’s future ultimately lies outside of building its own hardware, says the company.

“We’re a software company first and foremost,” Vudu co-founder Tony Miranz tells The set-top movie box service had to design and manufacture its own hardware in order to sell the concept to third-party consumer electronics companies, says Miranz.  The plan now is to “try to piggyback on TVs, DVD players and other classes of devices.”

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Vudu set-top box no longer a one trick pony, adds support for YouTube, Flickr and more

My biggest beef with the Vudu set-top movie box is that it’s always been a one trick pony, and an expensive one at that. Focusing on paid-for movies (rentals and to-own), Vudu’s sole proposition was that you purchased one of its set-top boxes, starting at $299, so that you could begin purchasing content. Essentially paying to enter the store.

That changed today, with the company announcing support for a range of free online video from YouTube, MSNBC, CNN, MTV, PBS, and National Geographic, as well as images from photo sharing sites Flickr and Picasso. “The new content will be available via a free firmware update that should hit all Vudu boxes over the next 24 hours”, reports Cnet. And best of all there’s plenty more to come.

See also: AppleTV 2 breaks free from the PC, remains under Apple’s lock and key

That’s because Vudu isn’t providing access to said content through formal licensing agreements but is instead pulling in content through those sites’ own APIs or freely available web feeds. Better still, Vudu is going to open up this feature to third-party developers in the first half of 2009 who’ll be able to add support for more online content.

In other words, Vudu looks like it might be slowly morphing, to some extent at least, into the open Apple TV I’ve been long calling for.

Mass market who? Vudu targets high end home theater crowd

Set-top box movie service Vudu already targets the home theater crowd with its higher end XL offering, but now the company is taking up a notch with the release of the Vudu XL2.

Described as being “designed specifically for professional home theater installations”, the XL2 sports an aluminum case that houses a 1U rack mountable unit, uses the “highest quality components”, and like its XL sibling, features a terabyte of storage — enough to store more than 500 standard definition movies. Other high end features include IP and IR control to allow the XL2 to be integrated into “most high-end home control systems”, along with 1080i HD output over component, and the ability to route and switch HD signals through the home with the use of off-the-shelf video switchers. The result, says Vudu’s Tony Miranz, makes the XL2 a home theater installer’s “weapon of choice”. At a premium price, of course.

The Vudu XL2 will be listed at $1,299 and is available today exclusively through more than 1,000 Vudu-certified custom installers, says the company.

It’s interesting to see Vudu continue to pursue the high end home theater market, a natural fit, in terms of the company’s recent focus on HD content. It also helps to differentiate Vudu’s offering, on a hardware level at least, from competitors such as TiVo, Apple and Microsoft. But does that make it the right strategy?

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