The streaming media company was all over CES, outnumbered (it seemed) only by the eReaders and netbooks. At the show, Vudu announced several new partnerships which will put the service on HDTVs and Blu-ray players from LG Electronics, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio.
Note that the only stragglers in that list are Sony and Panasonic - and there was some grumbling from customers of both companies when the names were left off of the new partner list.
The company also jumped on the app bandwagon, announcing a program that allows customers to do more than just watch movies. Over 100 apps were rolled out, providing access from everything from content from the Associated Press and NBC Nightly News to the now standard Twitter and Facebook interfaces.
No wonder the rumor mill is beginning to churn about a possible buyout.
AllThingsD reports that Wal-Mart is in "meaningful" discussions to acquire Vudu. If true, it would be the company's third attempt at video delivery, following failed previous efforts to compete with Netflix (in 2005) and iTunes (in 2007). http://mediamemo.allthingsd.com/20100112/is-wal-mart-ready-to-try-web-tv-again-with-vudus-help/
Vudu's strength isn't so much it streaming mechanism. (I've tested it recently, and while it really is a top-class service, let's face it, if you've got a so-so Internet provider, you're not going to be able to take advantage of the HD streaming option - even with the company's well-done compression technology.) And it's not even the business model: Instead of Netflix's all-you-can-eat plan, Vudu customers rent or buy films, a la Blockbuster or Amazon on Demand.
Instead, it's the sheer volume of places the service has embedded itself. Quickly realizing that its proprietary set-top box wasn't going to set the world on fire, the company began striking relationships with manufacturers, which let it begin to stand out from the crowd.
With its CES announcements, that exposure is about to grow substantially - putting Vudu in a lot of homes. And that's what makes it threatening. If, indeed, Wal-Mart takes a stake in the company or buys it outright, it could change the landscape in streaming content.
And even if it doesn't, Vudu will have a growing installed base of customers that could better position it to expand in the years to come.