Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vudu Works Its Magic, Releases HD Movies Day-and-Date With HD DVD and Blu-ray

For the first time, a movie will be available (legally) in electronic form on the same day it's released on physical media, the LA Times/AP reports.

The movie is The Bourne Ultimatum, and it will be available this Tuesday in high-def on the Vudu box - a hybrid download/streaming device - the same day as the DVD is released. The film industry term for this is a "day-and-date" release.

Usually, electronic releases are not available until the pay-per-view or pay-TV window, which is usually a month or so after the DVD release. Most such releases are in download or streaming form via the Internet, whereas Vudu is a somewhat unique device that attaches to the television set.

Still, if the experiment is successful, it could lead the way to accelerated online delivery of more films - a development that the big DVD retailers (Wal-mart, Best Buy and Target) might strenuously resist, but that might be favored by download vendors such as Apple (iTunes) and Amazon.

This development will contribute to the debate over release windows - the film industry practice of releasing a movie in phases via different media - first theatrically, then DVD, then pay cable, basic cable, and finally syndication. The industry maintains that this approach maximizes revenue, while critics suggest that refusing to make films immediately available via some form of home media encourages piracy and frustrates consumers.

Interestingly, there has been some collapse of windows related to foreign release patterns. In the past, foreign theatrical releases followed domestic. Today, due to the Internet's effect on both piracy and worldwide publicity, many large "event" films ("tentpoles") are released in some international territories day-and-date with domestic.