Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No App, No Problem!

As if spouting a line from the movie Blazing Saddles, Wal-mart's Vudu service says, "We don't need your stinking apps" to Apple. But they do want to be seen via the web on Apple iPad devices. "Last month, Wal-Mart -- the world's largest retailer -- integrated Vudu into, which now provides links to the streaming-video service alongside DVD search results. Movies are available from Vudu to rent for 99 cents to $5.99 or to buy starting at $4.99. No app, but accessed, rented or bought via the website and watched on an iPad or other approved CE device, "including the Sony PlayStation 3 and Internet-connected HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players from Funai Electronics (Magnavox, Sylvania), LG Electronics, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, SANYO, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba and Vizio."

With deals from most every major movie distributor, this service truly competes with Apple's not yet announced rental service. The challenge and opportunity for Apple will be to present a better, more ergonomic viewing and library experience. An Apple app can potentially mean less clicks; it could also enable a better search engine to find most efficiently exactly what you are seeking. But Vudu's advantage is that it has been released first and has the opportunity for better awareness through the Wal-mart store.

At the same time, Wal-mart made another decision. "Separately, on Tuesday Wal-Mart announced that it is exiting the digital music business and will stop selling digital music online effective Aug. 29." Funny to leave a business that could benefit from working with Vudu. To consumers, a digital download is a digital download whether it is video or music. To drop the music side of the program makes little to no sense.

So the digital video distribution platform is getting more crowded - Vudu, Netflix, Hulu, Apple, and of course cables' VOD, all offering movies and shows on multiple devices. The DVD business may be in decline, but streaming media is only growing.

You Can Re-Negotiate Your Cable Bill

Yesterday's blog focused on Cablevision's quarterly loss, but the problems in cable are not limited to Cablevision. "Cable, satellite and phone companies that provide TV services lost a combined 380,000 video customers in the second quarter, up from the 162,000 subscribers they shed in the same period a year ago." Today's print edition of the NY Post has a chart outlining all the deals that cable is offering to lure new customers to join. Among them, free access to NFL Sunday Ticket, cashback offers, and multi-platform discounts. But what should you do if you don't want to switch cable providers.

Certainly the cost to switch in terms of time spent waiting for the installer to show up at your door may offset the financial gain. But nothing should stop current customers from re-negotiating their monthly bill. That's right, just pick up the phone and threaten to switch. It may take a couple passes from customer service rep to manager to win-back department, but the half hour on the phone could shave multiple dollars off your bill or give you free upgrade to premium content from HBO, Showtime or Starz. Deals may last six months, some a year, but they can give you the same level of serve for less money.

Cable companies don't want to lose any more customers and it is cheaper to discount in order to retain than to install a new customer. So if you have some time, make the call and push for your best deal.