One of the biggest beefs with the Internet video-on-demand services offered on the Apple TV, Vudu, TiVo (via Amazon Unbox), and Xbox 360 is that the movies are just too expensive--usually around $4 for new movies, $5 to $6 for HD films, and a bit less for older "catalog" releases.
Watch just five or six movies a month, and you can easily rack up a $30 charge--not very appealing compared with Netflix's all-you-can-eat pricing plans.
But Vudu took a step in the right direction Wednesday with its new "99 for 99 cents" section, which will offer a rotating list of films for just under a buck. Even better, the initial list--already available on Vudu's Web site--isn't crammed full of the usual sort of dreck you see on such virtual bargain tables.
In addition to some older favorites (Animal House, Groundhog Day, Austin Powers, Chinatown, The Big Lebowski, and many of the Star Trek and Jack Ryan movies), you'll also find recent hits such as I Am Legend and Cloverfield. Not bad at all--though it's worth noting that all of these are in standard-def, not HD. Vudu's also extending its recent "renewal" policy, which lets people rewatch movies they've already purchased in the past seven days (99 cents for standard-def reruns, $1.99 for HD).
Remember that nearly all of the pricing and viewing limitations--such as the fact that rentals must be watched within 30 days of downloading, and within 24 hours of first clicking "play"--are imposed by the Hollywood studios that own the films (rather than the hardware makers). To that end, it'll be interesting to see whether Vudu's rivals begin offering a similar discount tier. In the meantime, though, Vudu's got a another distinguishing feature over its competition.