Hey Vudu, CableCos slow, not stupid

Vudu, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based start-up is getting a lot of buzz this morning, thanks to a rather extensive article in the New York Times. Their set-top box is supposed to make downloading and watching movies a pleasurable experience, and do an end run around Cable companies’ Video-on-demand offering.

If Vudu succeeds, it may mean goodbye to laborious computer downloads, sticky-floored movie theaters and cable companies’ much narrower video-on-demand offerings. “Other forms of movie distribution are going to look silly and uncompetitive by comparison,” [Tom] Miranz [Vudu founder] asserts.

The reality is that cable companies are not sitting still and are beefing up their Video on demand offerings. Two of the largest cable providers – Comcast and Time Warner Cable are testing a video-on-demand system that would allow them to release the movies on their VoD systems the same day DVD is released, which kind of takes away any competitive advantage of Vudu.

The only thing that stands between the CableCos and mass market adoption is a sensible and userfriendly interface, that they can’t seem to develop. Having not seen the Vudu interface, I am not sure if that will be the little start-up’s edge on cable companies.

Similarly, the telcos who are spending billions on new video-focused broadband networks are going to offer similar services on their set-top boxes. So the challenges are immense for this little company.

Silicon Valley’s record (if you don’t include Apple) on making hit consumer electronics devices is still a bit chequered. The number of dedicated video boxes and services is getting to a point of consumer no-attention. As Pete Rojas notes on Engadget, “the landscape is littered with companies (Moviebeam, anyone?) that have tried to convince consumers that they need yet another box connected to their TV and failed miserably in the process.”

Additional reading:

NewTeeVee: Is the closed set-top box doomed?

NewTeeVee: Is that the Vudu magic.