Vudu to Offer HD Movie Download Purchases

Vudu, a movie and TV show download service provider, has just given us yet another reason why we never need to leave the house. Vudu announced today that it is making high-definition (HD) downloaded titles available for purchase. A number of online movie and TV show sources, such as Apple, Amazon, CinemaNow, as well as Vudu, currently offer HD movie and TV show downloads as rentals, but this marks the first time that HD downloaded titles will be available for purchase.

Some of Vudu's current, popular HD rental titles.
(Credit: Vudu)

Vudu is a video on-demand (VoD) service that streams a selection of over 10,000 movies over a broadband Internet connection to a Vudu device connected to a TV. Once you own a Vudu Box, there are no additional service charges--you only pay for the videos you rent or purchase.

There are currently three different iterations of the Vudu Box: the Vudo Box comes with a 250GB hard drive, can store up to 50 standard-definition (SD) purchased movies, and costs $149; the Vudo XL comes with a 1TB hard drive, can store up to 500 SD titles (we're not quite sure how the Vudu XL can hold 10-times as many titles as the Vudu Box with a hard drive that is only 4-times larger, but this is what Vudu claims), and sells for $349; and the rack-mountable Vudu XL2, which also has a 1TB drive, and can be purchased via Vudu's "authorized installers."

All three Vudu devices include S-Video/Composite (480i), Component (1080i, 720p, 480p, 480i), and HDMI 1.1 (1080p/24, 1080i, 720p, 480p, 480i) video outputs ("HD via component requires optional software package XLS1"). Audio outputs include digital out via optical, coaxial, and HDMI, with 5.1-channel Dolby Digital support; analog audio is stereo only via RCA jacks.

The initial batch of 50 HD titles available for purchase will be from independent film studios, such as Magnolia Pictures, which released the Oscar-winning documentary, Man on Wire. Man on Wire will be offered as an HD purchase, as will War, Inc., and Transsiberian. Vudu claims that it "is in talks with other studios" to get the rights to sell more HD titles. Vudu currently has agreements in place with Lionsgate, Paramount, and Universal Studios, for renting out these studios' HD titles via download, so perhaps potential HD download purchases from these sources will also be possible.

 (Credit: Vudu)

"Vudu's HD downloads will be available in 1080p the same day they debut on DVD and Blu-ray, which is the same window that standard-definition download-to-own films are available and generally a month earlier than high-definition rental downloads, which fall into the pay-per-view window that follows DVD. Vudu will sell the HD downloads for $13.99 to $23.99, a premium to standard-definition downloads, but less than most Blu-ray discs."

Video Business points out that Vudu is marketing its service as an alternative to Blu-ray, and notes that Vudu "already offers 1,400 films in HD, more than have been released on the high-def disc format." Vudu executive VP of strategy and content Edward Lichty claims that about 30-percent of Vudu's rentals are in the HD format, so this gives an indication as to the potential for HD purchases.

It is important to note, however, that titles rented or purchased from Vudu can only be stored on and watched from a Vudu device--it is not currently possible to (legitimately) extract titles from a Vudu device. If your Vudu device's hard drive fills up, it is possible to "Archive" some titles to the "Vudu Vault" (essentially an online registry of titles you've purchased) so that you can make room for new titles--you can re-download titles you've archived--for free--at a later date. Vudu's FAQ states that archiving is available only for "select movies"; so it is not known yet if all purchasable HD titles can be archived or not--considering that HD titles will chew up much more hard drive space than SD titles, we certainly hope that archiving for all HD titlles will be an option.