Vudu : The next Tivo or the next Webvan?

I had to do a doubletake when I heard about this one! Its been a while since I have heard so many accolades for a product. I was even more impressed puzzled when I noticed the media companies that have gotten behind Vudu. NY Times has an exclusive on their “coming out” announcement.

“The first time I ever saw TiVo was an a-ha moment, and this was the same thing,�? says Jim Wuthrich, a senior executive with Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group. “It looks fairly sexy and inviting. This is going to pull people in.�?

Considering that I am a great fan of, and one of the earliest adopters of TiVo, that is saying a lot!

Insiders familiar with Vudu’s hidden magic say that this 41-employee start-up has everything we’ve come to expect from Silicon Valley: a daring business plan, innovative technology and entrepreneurs prone to breathless superlatives when discussing their new offering’s possible impact on the world.

“This is something that is going to alter the landscape,�? boasts Tony Miranz, Vudu’s founder, of the product he plans to begin selling this summer. “We are rewriting economics.�?

The last time I heard so much praise lavished on a product was … umm.. Segway, I think! But lets not go there now.

OK, so what is Vudu? Its a set top box that connects to the Net and delivers videos on your TV. It stores the first few minutes of the video on the hard drive so when you click on your selection, the video starts right away. To make data transfer faster, it uses P2P technology. They have filed about 42 patent applications and have brought in people from TiVo to apply the lessons learned there.

The most impressive part, which I have taken note of, is that every major studio â€�? except for Sony Pictures will make their films available on Vudu! That is amazing for sure. Vudu’s library boasts of 5000 movies; compare that to Apple TV which carries only 500 movies from two major studios. Another difference between Apple TV and Vudu is that for Apple TV to work, it needs to be connected to the computer - not so with Vudu.

My major issue with these devices is that the data infrastructure in most homes is not robust enough to even theoretically support the instantaneous delivery of a movie! It works great in a demo, where you have a 100M to 1G/sec network connection; but most homes have 164k connection which is being shared with a teenage son who is downloading YouTube videos. The expereince is not the same.

This reminds me of MovieBeam, which used a portion of the TV broadcast spectrum to preload the movie on a set top box. You have about 30-50 movies available to watch right away! After $50-100M in investment, it was recently sold for $10M.

Vudu raised $21M from Greylock Partners and Benchmark Capital and has been in the stealth mode for about 2 years.

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2 Responses to “Vudu : The next Tivo or the next Webvan?”

  1. By Dube on May 3, 2021 | Reply

    I agree with you; there have been so many set top boxes promising the same thing. The bandwidth, whether they use P2P or direct download, is just not high enough for most households.

    P2P also has to deal with the firewall issues that degrades the performance and download rate.

  2. By Chris on May 3, 2021 | Reply

    Verizon is promising fiber connection. May be that will solve the problem.

    The fact that they have everybody on-board with 5000 titles, that’s pretty good.

    I give them a high chances of success, just because of that.

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