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The world's biggest retailer backs studio's UltraViolet effort; but will consumers respond?
Remember those things called discs? Yeah, the things gathering dust on your shelf now that you have a Roku box and you're just streaming all the movies from the Internet. Thanks to Walmart, you might have a reason to dust them off and make use of them.
Walmart announced Tuesday its new service whereby customers can bring in their DVDs or Blu-ray Disc and, for a small fee, have them transferred digitally to any device. As Walmart is the largest seller of DVDs, wtih some 40% of the market, it will be more than likely that it'll sell you the option to get digital access to those DVDs before you walk out the door.
"The disc-to-digital service will allow our customers to reconnect with the movies they already own on a variety of new devices, while preserving the investments they've made in disc purchases over the years,"said John Aden, executive vice president for general merchandising, in a release.
“We believe this revolutionary in-store service will unlock new value for already-owned DVDs, and will encourage consumers to continue building physical and digital movie libraries in the future.”
The movies that will be available for the service are those produced by Walmart's partnering studios, Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
The new service is powered by Vudu, Walmart’s online streaming service launched last year that lets consumers buy and rent movies, much like services offered by Amazon and Netflix. Starting April 16, consumers can walk into some 3500 Walmart, hand in their DVDs, and digitize a standard DVD or blu-ray for $2, or upgrading it to an HD copy for $5.
The digital copies will go to the customer’s Vudu account (clearly consumers will have to create one) where they can be accessed online and then transferred to a mobile device supported by Vudu, which they list as "Internet-capable HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players from FUNAI Electronics (Magnavox, Sylvania), LG Electronics, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, SANYO, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba and VIZIO, and on the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system from Sony."
There is no mention of being able to transfer old VHS tapes, something that would surely appeal to people who have stacks of home movies they would like to preserve.
By offering this new service, Walmart is once again showing its support for UltraViolet, a cloud-based licensing system backed by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, whose members include Sony Pictures, NBC Universal, Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros. And Lionsgate, that was established as a way to combat online piracy.
Announced in 2010, UltraViolet does much the same thing that Vudu will do: allow consumers to buy DVDs and Blu-Ray and then stream and download them to multiple platforms and devices. It created a "Digital Rights Locker" that would allow customers to "easily access and manage all of their UltraViolet entertainment, regardless of where it was purchased."
UltraViolet is in direct competition with Apple's iCloud. With Apple commanding the majority of digital movie downloads, the studios have tried to control their fate. Hence the creation of UltraViolet. Apple has been a notable holdout from UltraViolet, instead developing its own system called iCloud.
Fortunately, it doesn't mean you can't access Vudu content from an Apple product. Vudu has been available on Apple products as of August 2011.
Walmart’s new service also serves to give a boost to the flagging DVD market that lost 44% of its sales in 2010. The new service encourages people to go out and buy their content legally again, rather than downloading it online for free. The bonus for consumers is supposed to be that they will have digital ownership of their own content that they can take with them anywhere, on their tablet, smartphone or gaming console.
Walmart is banking on people wanting to conviently take their content wherever they go. The question is: for most people, is that still worth paying for?
(Image source: myce.com)
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