The last mile.

The New York Times talks about a new movie download box about to be released called Vudu:

Vudu, if all goes as planned, hopes to turn America’s televisions into limitless multiplexes, providing instant gratification for movie buffs. It has built a small Internet-ready movie box that connects to the television and allows couch potatoes to rent or buy any of the 5,000 films now in Vudu’s growing collection. The box’s biggest asset is raw speed: the company says the films will begin playing immediately after a customer makes a selection.

If Vudu succeeds, it may mean goodbye to laborious computer downloads, sticky-floored movie theaters and cable companies’ much narrower video-on-demand offerings. It may even mean a fond farewell to the DVD itself — the profit engine of the film industry for the last decade. “Other forms of movie distribution are going to look silly and uncompetitive by comparison,” Mr. Miranz asserts.

Yet I can safely say that Vudu will be useless to me.It could be because Blockbuster is only a couple of blocks away and their movies are just as cheap. Of course there are never any in stock either. But that isn’t it.

The problem is with the last mile – my internet service provider. The fact that my internet provider, Rogers, throttles peer to peer traffic, which is exactly what Vudu uses.Oops, I meant to say that they employ bandwidth management. Either way, Vudu won’t work for Rogers customers. And if providers like AT&T get their way where network neutrality is concerned and start prioritizing traffic, it won’t work for them either.

There are other problems too:

Despite such high praise, Vudu faces hurdles. It is wading into a field dominated by heavyweights whose own aggressive efforts to kindle movie downloading over the Internet have largely failed. There is also little proof that consumers care much about the wide selection or instant availability of movies downloaded from the Web, especially if a movie isn’t cheaper than buying a DVD.

Vudu also needs to persuade regular folks to drag another whirring, electricity-guzzling gizmo into their already-crowded living rooms. “Three hundred dollars for the privilege of paying another 6 or 10 for a movie is a high hurdle,” said Nicholas Donatiello Jr., chief executive of the market research firm Odyssey. “Americans do not want more boxes under their TV if they can avoid it.”

Besides that, have you looked at movies today? They are barely worth the trip to the Blockbuster, let alone the cost of a trip to the theater, and they are out on DVD and pay-per-view pretty soon anyway. Anything I really enjoy I purchase on DVD. And TiVo records anything worthwhile on TV.

If Vudu is going to be successful they are going to have to overcome the attitude of the carriers that giving you any bandwidth at all is doing you a favor, and find some decent movies.


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