VUDU, the video-on-demand platform owned by Walmart, is trying to position itself as the leading family-friendly streaming service by introducing new tools for parents to evaluate and control what their kids watch.
Although the minimum age to start an account on VUDU is 18, families often share one account and watch content together. According to Variety, Jeremy Verba, VP and General Manager of VUDU, stated that “Families are viewing together and need tools to help them make sure content is appropriate.”
To that end, VUDU is introducing three new parental control features. First, “Family Play” mode automatically skips or mutes “objectionable” content such as violence, sex and nudity, profanity, and drug use. VUDU worked with the studios to develop the feature, which is powered by ClearPlay. It is available on more than 500 titles, and VUDU indicates that more selections will be added on a weekly basis.
VUDU came up with the ratings using a combination of human reviewers to tag scenes and automated algorithms. The company stuck to PG and PG-13 films, since R-rated films would likely end up with too many sudden jumps. As quoted in Variety, Verba said that the feature is designed so that “everyone in the family can enjoy a film, no matter what the MPAA rating, together.”
Parents have the option of customizing the types of content that Family Play filters, and the feature can be turned on or off at will—even during playback. Family Play is available on iOS and Android devices, Xbox One, web browsers, and newer smart televisions from LG and Samsung.
In addition to Family Play, commentary from Common Sense Media is available for parents to look through as a trusted guide. Consumers will find detailed information on thousands of titles, including a parental review and the minimum age recommended by Common Sense Media for young viewers. Parents can make a determination as to whether they want their children watching a given title by reading the reviews, rather than having to take the time to actually preview the content themselves.
Finally, “Kids’ Mode” is an account setting in which guardians can limit what can be browsed or viewed to only content that is appropriate to the child’s age. Kids’ Mode is also powered by Common Sense Media.
VUDU’s new features are being introduced at a time when the company is launching more exclusive and original family-oriented programming. Mr. Mom is modernized 11-episode series based on the 1983 comedy film written by John Hughes and starring Michael Keaton. The episodes debut in weekly batches, and each episode is about 10 minutes long. The episodes are free with ads, or can be purchased. Additionally, VUDU is exclusively debuting the first three episodes of Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You revival in September, ahead of the premiere on Nickelodeon in November.
VUDU’s new features apply to both its free library as well as rented and purchased titles. This strategy may give VUDU an edge as competition among streaming services continues to heat up.