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Vudu online movie rental service adding more TV shows

May 3, 2011 | 12:56 pm

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Wal-Mart's online video service Vudu, which has built its rental business streaming newly released movies in high definition, has just added a number of popular TV shows to its lineup, including episodes of the CW's popular "Gossip Girl" series. 

"When we were a startup, we had to kind of pick our bets -- and we focused on high-definition movies," said Vudu General Manager Edward Lichty. "One of the things that we have an opportunity to do now is expand our library broadly."

Vudu will offer episodes from past seasons of such top-rated shows as Fox's "Glee" and "Bones" and ABC's "Modern Family," as well as prior seasons' cable offerings including Showtime's "Weeds" and "Nurse Jackie." Prices per episode start at $1.99.

Lichty said he hoped to secure more current programs. "Gossip Girl" episodes will be available a day after their initial broadcast.

The decision to expand Vudu's television rental offerings comes as competition intensifies among online video services.

Hulu, an online service owned by media conglomerates News Corp., NBCUniversal and the Walt Disney Co., has attracted about 27.5 million monthly users by offering free, next-day viewing of current season's TV shows.

The dominant player, Netflix, now rivals the nation's largest cable operator in number of subscribers with 23 million subscribers. Its growth has been propelled by the popularity of its online streaming service, which makes a large selection of movies and TV shows available for a monthly fee.

Amazon.com in February launched a Netflix-like service called Prime Instant Videos with about 2,300 movies and TV shows.

Wal-Mart, the nation's leading seller of DVDs, acquired Vudu last year to give it a digital presence and help the retailer extend its reach into the growing number of Internet-connected devices and TV sets. Although the retail giant declines to break out sales figures for Vudu, Lichty said the business had grown 700% since the acquisiton.

Vudu's on-demand rental service is now available on 19 million devices. Two weeks ago, Vudu launched a Web version of its offering at Vudu.com that can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection.

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-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

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