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Wal-Mart's Vudu brings disc-to-digital movie service home

January 07, 2013|By Dawn C. Chmielewski and Ben Fritz
  • John Aden, executive vice president for general merchandising Wal-Mart U.S., announces the retailer's new partnership with major Hollywood studios creating an exclusive disc-to-digital service. The retailer plans to expand the service this month.
John Aden, executive vice president for general merchandising Wal-Mart… (Christina House / For The…)

Wal-Mart is expanding a program for consumers to obtain online versions of their DVDs -- without leaving home.

Last spring, Wal-Mart was the first company to launch a disc-to-digital program, charging between $2 and $5 to convert consumers' DVDs and Blu-ray discs to a digital form stored in the Internet cloud. It was part of the Ultraviolet online initiative backed by every major movie company except Walt Disney Studios.

Later this month, Wal-Mart will allow consumers to convert their DVDs and Blu-rays to Ultraviolet copies from home by using the retail giant's online video service Vudu.

Vudu will be the second online movie store to offer disc-to-digital from home. CinemaNow, owned by Wal-Mart rival Best Buy, launched a beta test of such a service in December.

Vudu, however, is more popular than CinemaNow. It is one of the most top online movie stores, behind market giant iTunes.

To use the new disc-to-digital service, consumers would have to download the "Vudu to Go" application. Once the software has been installed on a home computer, the service can identify DVDs or Blu-ray discs and authorize that a digital copy be deposited into a consumer's Vudu and Ultraviolet accounts.

This makes the movie available to watch on a computer and other digital devices such as tablets, smartphones, Blu-ray players and video game consoles.

The $2 cost -- or $5 to upgrade a DVD to high-definition copy -- is the same as in stores.

"We want to make it even more convenient for people to bring their physical DVDs into the digital age," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Spencer.

Disney movies are not part of the service.

Wal-Mart executives and many in Hollywood last March touted the launch of disc-to-digital in the chain's approximately 3,500 stores as a big step forward. However that offering has not proved popular enough to generate much added momentum for Ultraviolet, conceded several knowledgeable people who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the topic publicly.

Studio executives are hoping that the simplicity of disc-to-digital from home will encourage more consumers to convert their home libraries and become comfortable with storing and watching movies online. That's critical as the film industry attempts to build a thriving digital business to make up for ongoing declines in DVD sales.

It is possible that multiple people could use a single, shared DVD to convert multiple copies, but studio executives seem willing to accept that potential loss of revenue in order to boost Ultraviolet.


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