Vudu launches ad-supported movie service… and another OTT threat for cable networks

Walmart-owned transactional movie service Vudu has announced the launch of an ad-supported, free-to-consumer movie streaming service.

Vudu’s “Movies on Us” pricing feature will offer users who normally pay around $3.99 for a 1080P high-def version of an older title free streaming access, with the caveat that they have to wade through commercials. (Engadget reported that there were about three spots at the beginning of Mandy Moore film A Walk to Remember, but overall the experience was “manageable.”

Vudu is promoting the original 1980 Mad Max, the 2010 remake of True Grit with Jeff Bridges, and the Jack Black film School of Rock as among the initial titles marked “free with ads” on the Vudu platform. Do a search for “Mad Max” on the Vudu platform and you’ll get a choice of paying for the 2015 film (which is labeled as being available for purchase or rent in UHD) or watching the original that’s labeled “free with ads.”

Users can also click on the “Collections” tab and see the full library of Movies on Us titles. 

Offering customers the ability to rent or buy streaming movies in 480P, 720P, 1080P “HDX” and UltraHD flavors, Vudu has carved out a niche as a premiere streamer of quality high-def. 

And for ad-supported cable networks ranging from TCM to AMC to IFC — or any other network that pays hundreds of millions of dollars each year to license archival titles from the major studios — it’s yet another major OTT threat.

The news comes as Turner announced that the launch of its own SVOD movie site, FilmStruck, has been pushed back to November because the platform need to work out some technical bugs. 

RELATED: Turner teams with Criterion Collection to launch SVOD service for film buffs

Not citing any sources, Vudu says that 42 percent of U.S. households prefer to watch long-form content like movies and TV shows from ad-supported services in their living rooms. 

“Millions of customers already buy and rent content on Vudu on a monthly basis,” said Jeremy Verba, VP and general manager of Vudu. "This new service provides value for customers who want to watch movies and TV for free, when and how they wish to watch, without sacrificing quality.”