Will You Vudu?

22 Comments

[qi:032] The Internet Video download boxes are dime a dozen (or so it seems.) Not a day passes by when a start-up promises to deliver a box that would change our life. Well, not one of them has thus far changed our video watching lives. There are half a dozen start-ups that are building Internet video download set-top boxes of some sort. I remain pessimistic about the chances of such standalone video boxes. A weather man would describe this entire market as “cloudy” with occasional breaks of sunshine.

Steve Jobs and Apple (APPL) launched Apple TV with much fanfare, before calling it a “hobby.” It is MIA at Apple stores. Today, Vudu, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based start-up backed by Greylock Ventures and Benchmark Capital, launched its download box (expected to go on sale by end of this month,) hoping that it can out Apple, Apple in the download-video device business. The company is offering about 5,000 movies either for rental ($0.99 – $3.99) or purchase ($4.99 – $19.99.)

It has received mixed reviews. In a previous post I had expressed my extreme skepticism at the company and their claims. Since then got a demo in a “company controlled” environment, and was mildly impressed by the quality of the video and the interface. But without actual review it didn’t make sense at the time to write about the device.

Michael Wolf, an analyst for ABI Research has been one of the handful who got a chance to play with Vudu, offered to contribute his impressions of Vudu (posted over on NewTeeVee). He thinks it is one of the better options out there. David Pogue of The New York Times points out that the catalog of titles available and timing of movie availability is going to be a challenge for the company.

Vudu, as I see it has two challenges. First, getting folks to upgrade from their more predictable (and affordable) DVD watching habits. Second one is even harder: surviving Hollywood. That’s like sleeping in the same bed with rattle snake: good luck guys.

PS: Are you likely to give Vudu (or any such device) a try?

22 Comments

dustin

dont they charge per movie, if i want to pay per view ill just get pay per view

tnwake

@michaelawolf: The $100 for cable includes more than just movies. If you only watch movies then you wouldn’t have a cable subscription now would you?! So no, the ridiculous price is NOT “eaten up on four months of cable bills” because no one is going to buy Vudu and cancel their cable service.

As for Netflix, that’s the only one that Vudu has any kind of advantage over. The problem is that advantage (timeliness of delivery) is also an advantage that others share and those others don’t have a $400 box.

As for Media Center, yes it is a much different experience.. much better. You said “and because it relies on delivery over my home network for the entirely of the viewing experience, this is a problem” but didn’t explain why that’s a problem. How are the Vudu movies being downloaded? Over my home network. Some online movies can be watched while they are downloading, using your network the entire time and disrupting the movie if you lose service. But there are some that will let you download the entire movie before watching it. “Problem” solved.

So I still don’t see any reason to have Vudu, even if the box was free.

Internet

NO NO NO.

Don’t need it, never did, never will.

Investors – please take your money back, Vudu will just add to their own pain (and to others) until they run out of money, then will sell themselves to the first bidder for $1M (taking the cue from Movielink that sold for $6M after raising a boatload).

Alex Moskalyuk

What’s the advantage of a standalone box over Comcast Channel 1, i.e. On-Demand? With the similar movie prices, I don’t get the need to shell out $300-400 for a new box, since Comcast provides its digital box for $0.

Or is this mostly targeted at satellite / aerial TV users?

TekWek

does it work like Vudu? I mean if I kick it will someone else feel the pain….if not then its another new product that I am not interested in…..

Jesse Kopelman

$400 for the box is about twice the price point these guys need. At $400 you are getting dangerously close to full-blown HTPC pricing. For $600 you can get a Mac Mini that looks nice, lets you use Youtube, Joost, and such, lets you download from Unbox and iTunes, lets you watch DivX stuff you got from wherever, and has a DVD drive to let you continue using Blockbuster and Netflix while only having a single device connected to your TV.

Raj

Vuze + tversity + 360 setup does the trick. Especially for viewers interested in European / Asian apart from american content..this is the best way to go.

michaelawolf

All great comments. I would say that much of what Vudu has done has to be put into context. When you compare to cable VOD, you have to understand you’re paying $100 a month for the subscription. What if you just watch movies? Then this is ALOT of money for the right to have the STB next to your TV. The $400 Vudu price is basically eaten up on four months of cable bills.

And comparing to Netflix, you are all right, much greater selection. But I don’t know about you, but 1 day turnaround has never happened for me, its more like three days. And then there’s the fact I’m paying $20 a month and sometimes I will go a month without watching one movie.

Lastly – the Media Center experience is MUCH different. I’ve been using it Media Center for years, and because it relies on delivery over my home network for the entirely of the viewing experience, this is a problem. I truly believe you need direct-download to the box next to the TV for most consumers.

That being said, Vudu has alot of challenges ahead, including building out its library, making usage terms more friendly, and seeing if the box works as well in wide release. Time will tell…

tnwake

Why? I have a perfectly good Media Center PC that I can download movies onto from a variety of places and watch on my plasma. Any “box” that only downloads movies is just an unnecessary addition that adds clutter, not to mention an extra cost.

luis

Why, Why? Who funded them? Is this a tax shelter scheme? What a waste of time, talent and money. VUDU is DOA.

Tom Coseven

The key to the “on demand” market is not technology. The technology can be USMail, IPTV, Cable/Sat VOD/PPV, Internet download to something (PC, game console, DVR, other STB, …) or video rental stores. The keys are convenience, pricing and selection. USMail has pricing and selction nailed. Cable, Sat and IPTV have a huge advantage on convenience.

What competitive advantage does Vudu have? With worse selection than Netflix and worse convenience than Cable VOD, Vudu’s market, is limited to people that can’t wait for the one day turn around from Netflix, but consistently want something on the long tail that cable doesn’t offer.

James Moore

Shame there’s no way for the general public to buy puts on a business like this.

Would I buy something like this box? Sure, it’s a fine idea. Price point? Well, it’s just enabling me to rent movies. I’m thinking fifty bucks on the high end – you’re getting that rental revenue.

But:

“The box, which sells for $399”

Good luck with that. Pure comedy if it’s just what it says it is. At $400, it needs to be a very good Tivo competitor.

Paul G

Yeesh, when will these folks learn? Anyone remember Moviebeam? Enough already!

360 View

I am always skeptical of new hardware inventions till it has innovation and convenience like PSP or IPhone — but who know – where the money lies ?

Dean Collins

It’s with great lament that I look back on the failure of Akimbo which truly had an amazing headstart on this space before anyone even placed value on internet delivered on demand video set tops.

Cognation was working with Akimbo for their Australian deployment (akimbo never got it’s act together for a PAL compliant box) before the biggest SNAFU decision to partner with Microsoft and get out of the box space was made….causing Akimbo never to be heard from again.

I have many times personally apoligised to everyone who I involved in the Akimbo project many times over….. and still wonder what may have been.

Does this mean I’m down on the ‘appliance tv’ space – no but it does open my eyes to how a perfect concept can be killed by a few people at the top….. oh and I’m always looking for new projects :)

Cheers,
Dean Collins
http://www.Cognation.net

Brett

Definitely. My wife wants one!

We end up with a bunch of 7th grade girls and 10th grade guys at our house. Which is fun and fantastic. But even with NetFlix, we end up going to Blockbuster quite a bit because we did not have the right movie right there. Ever been to Blockbuster to pick a movie with 3 15 year old boys? That is entertainment in itself.

So keeping them around the house, less trips running around, providing a broad selection, making it easy, are all good things.

Brian Sugar

The engineering team at vudu should be extremely proud of their product. I installed mine this weekend and has found a permanent home next to my AT&T Homezone, Sonos, HD Tivo, Mac Mini, and Slingbox.

curtis

Meh. There’s just no real draw for me to go and try some new “movie downloading” box and service from an unproven company. I’m still pretty ok with AppleTV and the Video marketplace on the Xbox 360. Outside of those two, why would you need anything else?

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