Vudu Caters to Channel with IPTV Products, Strategies
Company claims to offer the most titles, fastest downloads, and a channel program for home systems integrators.
"What I'm hearing is that we're the most exciting thing at the show," said marketing VP Patrick Cosson during the Electronic House Expo in March.
Even forgetting the custom angle, Vudu has several things going for it -- from the deals it has secured with the studios to its novel video-distribution platform that enables users to begin watching content almost immediately.
Vudu requires an IPTV box at the users' premises. Movies, TV and other video content (no audio yet) can be purchased for about $19.99 or rented for about $2.99 (more for HD content and new titles; less for vintage movies and TV shows).
Content up to 1080p begins streaming almost instantly after your order a title.
Vudu's Distributed Technology
Most IPTV services have content stored in a single, central server, far far away from the consumer.
Being so far away, movies must make several hops across the network to get to any particular household. That takes time, so the streams are buffered until there's enough local content to begin a stutter-free showing.
Vudu, on the other hand, uses a distributed platform -- sort of a mesh-networking platform. A little bit of the most popular movies are stored in Vudu IPTV boxes around the country.
If you want to watch a movie, it comes to you from bits and pieces via your neighbors' Vudu boxes.
"We're on the edge of the network so we're quicker and more efficient," Cosson says, adding that Vudu is always "changing what we push to the edge of the network," based on the demand for content at any given time.
The solution is "more complicated" than typical peer-to-peer networks (a la BitTorrent), and less expensive than content distribution networks (CDNs, popularized by Akamai) that get you "almost to the edge of a network," Cosson says.
Vudu's network is closed, and content is pulled sequentially from any number of sources, including other Vudu boxes and the company's own servers.
The real secret is in the quality-of-service (QoS) software developed by Vudu. "Every box is talking to every other box and negotiating bits and pieces of content," Cosson says.
He explains that Vudu uses about 20 to 30 boxes to recreate the content, "so the demand on each box is quite low."
The distributed architecture is extremely efficient because it reduces the need for Vudu to maintain costly central servers.
"There are enough boxes out there for us to see efficiency on our network, so it lowers our cost of distribution," Cosson says. Apple, on the other hand, distributes content "all from a central server, so it is very costly for them."
Then again, you have to wait about 15 minutes to get your movie from Apple TV, and that's just for 720p content, Cosson explains. Other services can take hours to download HD content.
Cosson thinks that Vudu is the only company that can deliver 1080p content in real time.
Today, Vudu offers more than 6,000 titles.
"We have the most content. I'm sure because of the way that we count," Cosson insists. He says that other companies may claim larger rosters but that they may double-count, for example if a title is available to rent and purchase.
He asserts that Amazon's Unbox, for example, counts movies that are currently unavailable to rent because of the "HBO hole." (Some HBO movies come in and out of circulation because of tired old HBO rules.)
And Apple TV is "still floundering," Cosson claims. "Their studio relationships permit just rentals, not buying." Plus, the service offers only 720p content.