Digital on-demand movie provider VUDU has begun allowing consumers to own some of the high-definition movies and documentaries downloaded from the company's online store.
Until now, consumers could only rent selections from VUDU's 1,400 HD movies. The company has unwrapped a collection of more than 50 HD titles that consumers can download to own.
"Consumers are clamoring for the ability to own digitally delivered titles in high definition," said VUDU Executive Vice President Edward Lichty. "We are excited to be the first in the industry to meet this consumer need."
A 'Watershed Event'
VUDU's download-to-own HD collection is currently restricted to releases from independent studios such as FirstLook Studios, Kino and Magnolia Pictures, which have all agreed to make their films available for purchase. "The emerging digital platform that reaches consumers in their homes directly on their HDTVs via VUDU is an important new channel for us," said FirstLook Studios Chief Operating Officer Dean Wilson.
Lichty described the deal as a "watershed event" for the industry that signals the studios' recognition of, and confidence in, digital delivery as an increasingly important part of their business. "We expect to see a continuing expansion of digital rights in the coming months," he said.
Still, so far none of the major Hollywood studios have signaled a desire to make their blockbuster releases available under a download-to-own model. Until that happens, VUDU intends to continue renting, but not selling, their latest HD movie releases.
VUDU's collection of download-to-own HD titles, priced from $13.99 to $23.99, can be stored on the consumer's Internet movie player. Alternatively, customers may elect to store their purchases online using a free storage service that the company calls the VUDU Vault. Additionally, VUDU offers a $499 home theater that can store as many as 500 movie titles.
Earlier this month, VUDU halved the price of its on-demand player to just $149. Sold online as well as through Best Buy stores and other retail outlets, VUDU's player automatically upscales standard-resolution movies for display on HDTV screens.
Free Web TV
VUDU is also expanding into other areas. Last December the company launched a new standards-based platform based on Rich Internet Application technology. "Our goal in creating VUDU RIA was to allow anyone with Web-development skills to easily author Web-driven applications for the TV," said Chief Technology Officer Prasanna Ganesan.
VUDU RIA enables consumers to view free on-demand shows provided by major network television as well as content offered by online specialty sites spanning the news, food, music and sports genres. Moreover, the new platform integrates Web applications that enable "customers to share their photos and watch the tens of millions of YouTube videos on their HDTVs," Lichty said.
In addition to being featured in the company's on-demand player, VUDU says its RIA technology can be embedded into other devices, such as set-top boxes and Internet appliances. The company said its RIA platform is designed to deliver a lightning-fast user experience on devices equipped with a 300-MHz embedded processor and 128MB of RAM.