Netflix may have another rival in the video subscription business — the recently launched Vdio, the brainchild of a co-founder of Skype, Janus Friis. Not much is known about Vdio, based on what tech and gadget site Giga-Om revealed Tuesday, but that post’s figure of 200 active monthly users on Facebook had grown to 3,000 when we checked several hours later. And even the Facebook app required for access is available only in the U.K. At least that’s what we were told when we tried to sign up. Then again, it turns out U.K. users are told that Vdio is “coming soon.” The Giga-Om post describes in mind-numbing detail the online detective work it took to figure out who’s behind Vdio. As it currently exists, Vdio’s website has a main page that features an alternating display of images from high-profile TV shows such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Tudors and movies like The Dark Knight.
The detective work led eventually to a stealthy entity called Project WBS, which according to an SEC filing raised some $5.6 million a year ago, and its directors include numerous longtime tech buddies and financial advisers of Friis and his Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom. There are also folks “who worked for TV Guide, NBC and the music subscription incarnation of Napster, as well as the former leader of Skype’s visual design team, someone who did content acquisition for Netflix” — and a systems engineer who worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is experienced in “data management and modeling, data analytics, and statistical analyses of large data sets, including data mining, visualization, and interpretation.” Most of the people are located in Los Angeles.
When Vdio will officially launch and how it will work are unclear, but it almost certainly be subscription-based, which seems to place Netflix squarely in Vdio’s crosshairs. It looks real, and it looks serious. The movies and TV shows displayed on Vdio come from Warner Bros, AMC, Showtime, Sony and Fox. Netflix has been lurching in crisis mode since its botched bid to separate its DVD and streaming businesses, and Hulu’s future remains uncertain. Vdio may not have stood a chance six months ago, but now it may have a genuine window of opportunity.