Rob Holmes is currently
Director of Content Acquisition of VUDU, a provider of video on-demand and
other internet-delivered content directly to the television, where he heads new
content acquisition for both the company’s video on-demand platform and VUDU Labs,
the company’s rich media applications platform. Prior to VUDU, Rob was
Vice President, Corporate Development at Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios Inc
(“MGM”). While at MGM, Rob worked in the digital media, worldwide
television and corporate divisions, helping to craft the company’s initial
digital distribution agreements, re-build the worldwide television distribution
division and raise third party film and distribution financing. Rob was
previously an investment professional with private equity firm Texas Pacific
Group and in Goldman Sachs’ Private Equity Group. He holds an MBA from
the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar,
and an A.B. from Princeton U
Bijan Tehrani: Please tell us about the background of Vudu.
Rob Holmes: The company was founded about four years ago by Tony
Morantz and Alan Rossman. Their general observation was that it was a lot
harder than it should be to watch a movie on demand at home. The put together a
technical team, and went about creating both a service and hardware platform
that would, in their mind, allow them to better deliver content over the
internet to customers televisions. As the industry has evolved over the last
couple of years, and certainly over the past 6 months to a year, the separation
between the hardware and the service has become more evident. There has been a
Vudu box in market for a bout a year and a half now, and people really like it;
it has gotten great customer reviews and has been a standout service in the
digital delivery space. We are planning on bringing out service to other
platforms, and focus on the service as the distinguishing mark of Vudu, and try
to make our service as compelling in terms of content and user interaction as
BT: Do you mean that the service will be offered through
other sources, such as cable companies?
RB: We have announced deal with end tone where we are
embedding the product in IPTV set top boxes, and other products as well.
Generally speaking, our strategy is really around our software and service more
than our hardware.
BT: We are really impressed with the whole system, with
the content and the way it works, but with the kind of competition with the VOD
market right now, how much do you think Vudu can survive?
RB: We really try to distinguish ourselves in terms of the
quality of our offerings. We offer both the worlds largest catalogue of studio
released HD content, and we also offer the internets highest quality format
available, the HDX format. We have really tried to play to the higher end of
the market; we are distributed in the high end home theater channels as well as
the consumer channels, and that has been our hallmark so far. The quality of
the user interface, the quality of the video itself, and the quality of the
catalogue will be our strengths going forward.
BT: HDX is wonderful quality, but the problem is that the
load time is very long. Is there any way to expedite that?
RB: That is something that we are working on and hope to
have some announcements on that in the near future. Certainly it is a superb
quality product today, and for the customers who have the very large TV
screens, they are very excited for the HDX format. Another announcement we made
today is that we are now the first service to be selling HD copies of major
studio content for purchase. We are doing a catalogue of Buena Vista Home
Entertainment products available for HD for purchase. We hope over time that
more studios will make available more HD products for purchase. In that model
the wait time for HDX becomes less of an issue because people own the issue.
BT: How do rentals work?
RB: The rentals are determines by the studios. Most
studios will allow you to rent something for 24 hours at a time. One that
window has expired, we go out of our way to allow our customers to re-rent that
title, and that is something we are actually footing the will on the increase
our customer satisfaction.
BT: I have to congratulate you on the list of
international films that you have; you have over 700 titles in the international
film section. I haven’t seen any other VOD provider that offers such an
extensive foreign catalogue. Is that a market that you are interested in?
RB: It certainly is. I think we are interested in quality
film, whatever format that takes. We are adding two to three new distributors a
month, and what we are looking for is people to represent the top quality
independent film from all over the world. Given the extent that your readers
are interested in specific content, we would love to hear about it, and if
there are distributors that you think do a very good job of bringing quality
international film to the US, we would be interested in hearing from them.
BT: Are you going to add any services, like you have with
the you tube channels?
RB: Our goal with the Vudu Labs service, which is what you
are talking about, is to bring internet delivered content. Online video, in our
minds, is not confined to the PC. We have another few applications that we re
developing that we are going to be releasing. We have recently announces a
partnership with Bright Cove, and has given us the opportunity to do a couple
of new applications, where people who are partnered with Bright Cove, it
becomes very simple for them to make their content available through Vudu. We
are trying to bring video that people think of as PC based, and bring it to the