Streaming Service will offer mobile matching and upconverting service for a piecemeal fee
By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Vudu… Think of it as iTunes Match for a price. And that price is about to allow users to not only store their videos in the cloud for access from any device, but also to upconvert DVDs and old VHS titles to Blu-ray quality. But will the service be a boon to movie fans or a bandwidth killer?
“We know from our customers they love movies and they have told us they still want to be able to buy the physical DVD, but they are looking for more value,” says Walmart/Vudu spokeswoman Sarah Spencer. “They want to be able to watch it on all the screens that they own.”
The idea is a lot like iTunes Match. Users buy a DVD or Blu-ray copy of their favorite movie or TV show, and then, they can have the Vudu app recognize the disc in the computer and link it to one of Vudu’s UltraViolet copies in the cloud. The fee to have access to the cloud based copy is $2 for a blu-ray disc and an upgrade from VHS or Blu-ray to an online copy will run $5. And over 300 mobile devices are supported including iOS and Android.
To date, Vudu, which is owned by Walmart, has attracted studios like DreamWorks Animation, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers, who have opened up their vaults to over 100,000 movies online. Only Disney is holding out, having signed an exclusive mega deal with Netflix for streaming online content.
I guess it’s a great idea for those who want digital copies but don’t want to be bothered with having to create their own digital files via something like Handbrake. Even our editor Heath McKnight loves the convenience of not only converting Blu-rays to digital, but also being able to upscale to a high quality ultraviolet file from DVDs that are already owned for only $5. Beats rebuying it at $39.99 I reckon.
But what I don’t like about it is that the physical vile is stored in an online vault that Vudu controls. And the cheapskate in me wonders why I should have to pay $2 a title, or $5 for a blu-ray upgrade, when I can just run Handbrake and rip my own DVDs for viewing on my iPhone or iPad.
But that’s probably the point. Hollywood doesn’t WANT me to have the ability to rip my own DVDs to watch on my smartphone. They consider that piracy, and not fair use. A good step was when studios started offering free digital downloads with a code including in a DVD purchase, and that was fine by me, it saved me the hassle. But why do that anymore when they can squeeze another $2-5 bucks out of you and still have the keys to control when and if you can stream to your device.
And that’s the other thing. Even though I am grandfathered into an unlimited data plan (for the time being) and can enjoy streaming on Vudu, having a blu-ray quality high definition stream for most capped bandwidth plans will break the bank with just one viewing, leaving users with overage charges. And yes, I know, the Vudu service also has a set top box, and in that regard, the upgrade service to Blu-ray will have a less dramatic footprint on bandwidth. But even then, ISPs have a cap as well (though most are around 250+GB a month).
So, at least Hollywood has accepted the inevitable … that users want their content when they want it and how they want it. So from that perspective, Vudu’s expanded service will be a mobile step in the right direction when it launches next month.