What a long strange trip it’s been. Vudu initially launched in 2006 as a $400 dedicated movie streaming box. The requisite price cuts and pivots followed, including serving up apps like Flickr and then feeding smart televisions, before Walmart swooped in. Since then, the video service has focused on its own mobile and set-top video streaming app … that’s landed on a whole host of set-tops and mobile platforms. And, here we are again, back to a dedicated piece of hardware in the new Vudu Spark. Having launched in Walmart stores just a few weeks ago, at $25, of course I had to pick one up. Continue Reading…
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TiVo’s Winter Update nears release. And, as you can see from the pic above, it’s headlined by mobile streaming enhancements along with the previously disclosed Amazon and Vudu apps. While Vudu and its Ultraviolet library tie-in an entirely new (and welcome) TiVo offering, Amazon Instant is a long overdue update that brings the full fledged streaming app experience… and finally includes access to oodles of “free” Prime content.
Beyond the new and improved over-the-top video content, TiVo also promises “improved video quality and performance while streaming shows to mobile devices.” As to the specifics, one can only guess. But I’m hopeful this refers to a more dynamic and broader range of bitrates… to finally also bring cellular streaming to iOS devices and perhaps the retirement of the TiVo proxy, requiring extra hops for all video to flow through.
It’s shaping up to be a splendid fall for TiVo (and us subscribers). As if a TiVo Mini fee adjustment, mega rack mountable DVR with hard drive RAID, and Android streaming weren’t enough, two highly desirable apps will be joining the party… perhaps as early as next month. Sources indicate, and seemingly corroborated by forum chatter, that Amazon Instant and Vudu are on the docket.
Amazon will finally be a “real” TiVo app with Prime access and extend beyond Premiere and Roamio units to also include Mini streaming. Of course, if the technical details play out as anticipated, what we gain in convenience we may lose in quality when migrating from the download to stream model. Then again, anyone who purchased a TiVo Roamio manufactured after January 1st, 2014 has had NO Amazon at all – just a box logo covered by a sticker. So the benefit will be even greater for a subset of subscribers, irrespective of video bitrate.
Further, TiVo will finally get into the Ultraviolet game with Vudu who’s been known for high quality movie streaming along with that UV digital locker. Not only do both of these apps generally add value to the TiVo platform, it ups the ante for those contemplating the new Roamio OTA targeted at cord cutters. Further, should Best Buy’s 500 store experiment pan out, we could envision a scenario where this model ends up at TiVo retailer Walmart… who happens to be the company behind Vudu (and exclusive distributor of the dead OTA Boxee Cloud DVR).
We’ve long pined for the day we could legitimately share our legally acquired digital content, similar to how we often recycle physical media, without piracy or loaning out HBO credentials as so many do. Well, the UltraViolet consortium, consisting of a large number of movie studios, obviously sees some value in keeping their customers happy — perhaps as a way to cut down on theft and grow their digital ecosystem. And Walmart’s Vudu is the first provider to implement their new licensing.
Share My Movies by Vudu allows us to grant access to our cloud-based video library to five others. And, instead of messing with passwords and the like, invites are handed out via email address – as similarly implemented on Slingbox. This makes me a whole heck of a lot more more likely to purchase Blu-rays (with digital copies), knowing I can have my mom tune into any worthy flicks via her Roku. As we saw with UltraViolet’s disc-to-digital initiative, I anticipate other UltraViolet services like Flixster and Target Ticket will eventually offer similar sharing capabilities.
If Walmart’s June 10th circular is any indication, not only will the new Roku HD see a $10 price drop but it’ll also receive access to Vudu. Of course, Vudu is one of the more compelling video-on-demand services known for stellar high def streaming and cloud access to purchased (Ultraviolet) content – including disc-to-digital. Oh yeah, Vudu also happens to be owned by Walmart.
Assuming a Roku Vudu channel app comes to pass, the Roku HD tops out at 720p and I’m not certain even the 1080p-capable Roku 2 XS or XD can handle Vudu’s HDX bitrates. So while Amazon Instant will see some competition, this may not provide the best of breed HD that has set Vudu apart. One other note… While the Roku HD looks similar to the Roku 2, it’s slightly bigger to accomodate standard RCA composite (SD) outputs.
Update: Roku has informed me that the Vudu logo next to that Roku HD is a Walmart misprint. But, given Roku doesn’t comment on future initiatives, perhaps there’s still hope… someone has to bring Ultraviolet to the Roku platform, after all. Unless it’s Roku themselves.
Later this month, Vudu lands on the PS3. And if they’re not the top HD movie streaming service (in terms of quality), they surely fall amongst the top two (with Xbox Live Zune HD being the other). I’m not quite sure what these means as far as Sony’s own PS3 video store, but console owners are about to see a very nice VOD upgrade.
In other Vudu news, they’ve announced version 2.0 will launch next month and includes a refreshed UI. Although, by my count, the new interface would actually be the third iteration (for those who own original Vudu hardware). Actually, this update could even be classified 4.0 as my system software is already identifies itself as 3.0. But never mind those details, they mess with the marketing message.
What I first noticed when reviewing the screencaps earlier this week are the missing Vudu Apps, like Facebook, Flickr, etc. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a definitive answer out of Vudu’s PR team on this…
VUDU’s focus is on the (over) 4,000 HD titles they have in their library. They are very much looking forward to expanding their TV content as well.
In most cases, it would make sense to dump the apps. They don’t directly generate revenue (for Walmart), like Vudu’s core content business, and most Vudu partners have their own app platforms (that Vudu plugs into) – making it somewhat redundant. On the other hand, apps encourage original Vudu owners to fire up their box more frequently which could indeed lead to additional movie rentals or purchases.
As far as the new UI, it looks quite nice — both attractive and functional. In fact, not only is the new tab-based interface designed for efficient remote control they say they took alternate input methods into account, including pointer remotes like The Loop or PS3 Move. Beyond the visuals, Vudu says we should expect new browsing, filtering, and recommendation capabilities.
Click to enlarge: