A new entrant in the digital movie distribution space, dubbed Vudu, is looking to lure movie-lovers from cable’s video-on-demand by signing deals with every major studio except Sony plus 15 smaller studios that will enable it to launch this summer with more than 5,000 films including HD titles.
Vudu’s hook: as yesterday’s New York Times profile notes, "raw speed." Its broadband-connected set-top box (yes, another box, which could prove its downfall; more on that below) begins playing the movie selection as soon as it’s selected by the customer, with no tedious waits for downloading.
How it works: the movie files skip the PC while using peer-to-peer networking "without any active participation by users," and in a clever twist, Vudu’s branded set-top box stores the beginning portions of films to enable instant playback.
Realizing that the last thing anyone wants is another box under the TV, the company isn’t wedded to a standalone box model (which will likely retail for $300; 24-hour movie rentals cost $2.95 and download-to-own movies $12.95). Notes the Times, "their hardware box might eventually melt away, with its services running as the video-on-demand feature in a satelite box, video game console or a new breed of high-definition televisions."
The brainchild of Tony Miranz, a former VP at OpenWave, Vudu’s 41 staffers include TiVo, WebTV and OpenTV alumni. Om Malik points out in his blog (titled "Hey Vudu, CableCos Slow, Not Stupid") that day-and-date VOD releases are being tested by Comcast and by Time Warner Cable in its Austin market. Malik adds: "The only thing that stands between the CableCos and mass market adoption is a sensible and userfriendly interface, that they can’t seem to develop."
To that point, Ron Lamprecht, SVP of digital distribution at NBC Universal, tells the NYT he likes Vudu’s intuitive user interface and security features.