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Vdio film and TV rental service is expensive, well designed

Vdio, a new film and TV streaming service, wants you to spend less time wondering what to watch, and more time watching.

Vdio, a classy new film and TV streaming service from the people who brought you the similarly vowel-mangling Rdio, wants you to spend less time wondering what to watch, and more time watching.

Like Netflix and Lovefilm it has all the social recommendation dooberries so you can see what your friends like -- ie, it can connect to your Facebook account -- but it lets you build 'Sets' of TV shows and movies, like playlists.

Keen to educate your ignorant friends in the down-home charms of Mr Kevin Costner? You can share your custom-built Costner set and they'll be basking in his irresistible Californian smile in no time at all. Create a new set and you can add any movie or TV show by mousing over its cover art and hitting + -- there's also a built-in 'Watch Later' list, something Netflix doesn't currently let you do.

Vdio Costner set

That's the theory, but in practice there are only three examples of Mr Costner's peerless opus on Vdio so far. Like any new service, its back catalogue is a little thin, and even more (ahem) contemporary heartthrobs such as Ryan Gosling and Jake Gyllenhaal are poorly represented, with only six films between them.

Vdio isn't unlimited either. While its sister service Rdio lets you listen to as much music as you want for £10 per month, on Web or mobile, Vdio has a more old-fashioned purchase and rental model. You don't download the things you buy either, you just get to stream them at any time. (Rdio Unlimited subscribers currently get £20 of free Vdio credit.)

Thanks to Hollywood's labyrinthine licensing restrictions, there's no rhyme or reason to any of the prices. Oscar-winning thriller Argo and Batman concluder The Dark Knight Rises are both £4.50 to rent or £10 to buy, which matches iTunes. Tom Hardy's Prohibition thriller Lawless is only £2.99 to rent, but doesn't have an option to buy. Skyfall, meanwhile, is £10 to buy, but you can't rent it. Huh?

"Knowing the licensing challenges and the way things are windowed especially on the TV side, we wanted to launch with the newest and best content. To do that you have to use the transactional model," Drew Larner, chief executive of Vdio and Rdio, told the Guardian.

Newer titles -- particularly ones in the Spotlight section -- are much better presented. The TV series screens look gorgeous, although even some really snazzy Web design isn't going to get me to part with £20 to watch one series of Doctor Who. For the £12.99 it costs you to buy just season 1 of Breaking Bad, you could get two months of Netflix and watch the whole lot.

At the moment Vdio is only on the Web and via an iPad app, with apps for the most popular smart TV brands in the works (Larner specifically mentions Samsung and LG).

I can't see a new rental service being terribly successful without a comprehensive catalogue or reasonable, predictable prices. You don't want to seek out a show your friend has just recommended and find it's more expensive than the last thing you just watched, or worse, not available at all.

If Vdio can expand into part-rental, part-subscription and create apps on every platform that are as well designed and easy to use as its website, then it may stand a chance of creating buzz -- but that's a long way from where it is today.

Does the Internet need another streaming service? Do you think Vdio stands a chance against iTunes or Netflix? Where do you get your fix of Kevin Costner? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, or over on Facebook.

Update: As CNET reader Marc Crane points out, Netflix doesn't have much Costner either. Lovefilm has the least Costner. iTunes has all the Costner you could want.