Vudu avoids the Apple tax with iPad mobile site

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In its hunt to get on ever-more devices, Vudu is finally making its streaming video-on-demand (VOD) store available on the iPad. But while most streaming video services have launched apps on the tablet, Vudu is coming to market with a mobile web experience, in part so that it doesn’t have to share revenues with Apple.

Vudu’s recently launched an update to its website which extends availability of its streaming videos to web browsers, as well as connected TVs, Blu-ray players and game consoles. The mobile site for iPad, which is available today, is an extension of that initiative. The iPad site is formatted specifically for the tablet, and allows users to watch movies they’ve already rented or bought wherever they are. The site takes advantage of Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) adaptive bit rate streaming to ensure video quality based on network conditions. However, like the normal website, Vudu streaming is only available in standard definition.

By moving to the mobile web, Vudu can control the customer account across multiple devices, without having to worry about integrating with Apple’s login system. But most importantly, doing so lets Vudu and parent company Walmart avoid sharing revenues with Apple. Vudu GM Edward Lichty admitted that owning the customer relationship through the browser experience would be “economically favorable” to the streaming company.

But Lichty also said that introducing a native app gives Vudu a great level of autonomy over the evolution of the experience. In other words, Vudu isn’t beholden to Apple’s App Store approval process when updating or adding features to the digital storefront on the iPad.

The Vudu iPad site will give viewers access to more than 20,000 titles for rental or purchase. According to Lichty, the site has access to the company’s entire streaming library except for one studio: Disney. That’s not terribly surprising, as the studio has its own cloud-based video service called Disney Movies Online. Disney also has an iPad app which could be used for streaming in the future.

While the iPad is the first tablet to get the Vudu video storefront, other mobile devices are in the works, including Android tablets and phones. And users can connect to the service on their iPhones, although the mobile website isn’t yet optimized for the smaller device.

Vudu has expanded the number of devices that it plays on, especially since being acquired by Walmart last year. Its service is now available on more than 300 connected TVs, Blu-ray players and other devices.

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