Vudu Takes High-Def Movies Higher

Steven Stone -- Mon, 10/06/2008 - 09:23

Vudu Takes High-Def Movies Higher
Excerpted from Multichannel News Report by Todd Spangler

P2PTV hardware/network start-up Vudu this week will begin offering 65 feature movie titles in 1080p high-definition (HD) video format via its Internet-connected set-top, in a bid to peel home-theater aficionados from cable and satellite video-on-demand (VOD) services.

The movies, priced for a la carte rental, include "Chronicles of Riddick," "The Spiderwick Chronicles," "In Bruges," "Speed Racer," and classics such as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Chinatown," and "Saturday Night Fever."

Vudu calls the service "HDX," with video encoded at variable bit-rate in MPEG-4 H.264 in 1080p at 24 frames per second - the highest HD format currently defined.

The average bit-rate for an HDX-encoded title is 9 to 10 Mbps, compared with about 4 Mbps for Vudu's regular 1080i HD titles, said Chief Technology Officer Prasanna Ganesan.

Vudu offers HDX movies for the same price as regular HD - $5.99 for a 24-hour rental of new releases - and said it will provide every newly released HD title in the new format.

"Our customers are the on-demand consumers," Ganesan said. "They don't want to order DVDs two days in advance and wait for them to come in the mail." Ganesan said HDX titles will take about 3-to-4 hours to download to the Vudu set-top box (STB) over a standard broadband connection.

At least initially, Vudu's HDX service will spar with the on-demand offerings of the two major satellite operators, as well as Blu-ray Disc DVDs, which use the 1080p format. Both Dish Network and DirecTV have announced plans to offer 1080p movies via their VOD services.

Vudu, founded in 2004, has secured distribution deals with each of the major movie studios, including Walt Disney Studios, Lions Gate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, and Warner Bros. Its full slate of VOD titles is about 9,800.

Vudu's STBs carry a list price of $299. The product is available from the company directly and retailers including Amazon and Best Buy, which is offering a $200 movie credit to all new Vudu customers until December 31st.

Santa Clara, CA-based Vudu has not disclosed how many of its boxes it has sold to date but said the number is less than 100,000.

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