Verizon debuts Viewdini, but streaming still subject to caps

Verizon’s(s vz)(s vod) new video app Viewdini escaped onto Android smartphones on Friday – at least the LTE ones. The video portal allows Verizon’s 4G smartphone customers to browse, search and view videos from multiple premium services, including Comcast’s Xfinity TV(s cmsca), CBS(s cbs), Netflix(s nflx), Hulu, mSpot and Verizon’s own mobile video service. What the app doesn’t allow you to do is skirt Verizon’s mobile data caps.
When Verizon first unveiled Viewdini last week, I speculated that Verizon might make the app the first to implement ‘toll-free’ data policies, meaning that content providers would pay the network carriage charges instead of their customers. That turns out not to be the case.
Viewdini is subject to the same data metering as any other app (or throttling restrictions in the case of Verizon’s grandfathered unlimited customers). It also just so happens that Verizon is ending its double data LTE promotion next week, which means new customers will have to settle for its normal, and rather pricey, mobile data tiers.
It’s easy to see how customers can run up some hefty data bills using the service – full-length TV shows and movies can consume enormous amounts of bandwidth. The service itself, though, seems pretty innovative as it aggregates content that would normally be trapped behind specific apps. Viewdini lets you view video from the services to which you subscribe and allows you to buy or rent other content.

You can check out The Verge’s review here, which while generally positive found the absence of major streaming sources such as Vudu and HBO Go disappointing. Verizon has said it’s still in negotiations with other content providers and plans to add more video sources, including its own FiOS TV, in the future.
As for data restrictions, I wouldn’t be surprised if Verizon is still in discussions with these content providers about revenue-sharing deals that could offset the cost of delivering their video. It would be quite a compelling service if all or part of the content was off the meter and certainly a differentiator for the content providers that agreed to it. I’m not quite sure if Netflix and Hulu are ready to open up that Pandora’s Box though. For now Netflix seems more interested in helping its customers get around data caps by avoiding cellular entirely.