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Rdio adds video service and takes on Apple, Amazon

Music-streaming service says "roll tape" on new Vdio service.


The music-streaming service Rdio is upping its game by getting into the video business.

The company today rolled out Vdio -- a way to buy, rent, and share movies and TV shows with friends in real time. The service, which at first will be available only for Rdio subscribers in the U.S. and U.K., boasts thousands of hit titles, including "Life of Pi," "Zero Dark Thirty," "The Hobbit," and "Homeland." TV shows are available the day after they air, and the company says it will add new titles and bonus content daily.

"It's the next extension in our strategy to become a full-fledged entertainment service," said Malthe Sigurdsson, who is vice president of product for Rdio.

The service is betting on the social aspects, and Sigurdsson says that it's designed to solve the "what to watch" problem, with the aim of taking on rival, paid video services from Amazon and Apple. Users can create the video equivalent of "playlists" -- Vdio is calling them "sets" -- so that people can create and share lists of TV shows and movies with others.

Rdio, which launched in 2010, is similar to Spotify, which is the leader in on-demand, streaming music services, with 24 million active users and 6 million paying subscribers. Rdio, which doesn't say how many users it has, also offers free, ad-supported music and then charges $10 a month if you want added features and the ability to listen to it all on your smartphone.

While the company is dedicated to the subscription model, Sigurdsson says it's not able to offer new video and TV content to subscribers because the studios won't do such deals. That is why, instead, Vdio is giving people the option to buy programs.

"We'd like to have all the newest content available," he said, "but we can't get the licenses from the rights holders. ..The decision to make it a buy and rent service rather than subscription was driven by our desire to include new movie releases and next day TV content."

Spotify also has explored the idea of adding a video service, but CEO Daniel Ek told CNET that such an offer isn't in his near-term plans. Vdio works on the Web and iPad, with other devices and platforms in the plan.