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Summary:

We told you it was coming — and it did. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) has formally announced its support for Hollywood’s struggling UltraViolet movi…

Wal-Mart Store
photo: Wal-Mart

We told you it was coming — and it did. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) has formally announced its support for Hollywood’s struggling UltraViolet movie cloud initiative. Under its new “Disc to Digital” service, Wal-Mart will begin shepherding consumers through the process of converting their DVD and Blu-ray collections to digital cloud storage starting next month at more than 3,500 Wal-Mart stores.

Wal-Mart made its announcement Tuesday, at a press conference held at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel alongside home entertainment executives from participating studios Fox (NSDQ: NWS), Paramount (NYSE: VIA), Sony (NYSE: SNE), Warner Bros. (NYSE: TWX) and Universal. The movies will be accessible through the retailer’s Vudu digital rental and sell-through service, with consumers paying $2 to convert each individual DVD and Blu-ray title to an UltraViolet cloud copy that can be played back through Vudu on a range of devices by numerous family members. Consumers willing to pay $5 a disc can convert standard-definition DVD titles to high-def digital copies.

With every major studio except Disney (NYSE: DIS) participating in UltraViolet, the initiative is seen by Hollywood as a means of encouraging rental-prone consumers back into the habit of movie purchasing. But has had a rough start, with only about 1 million users signed up since its October launch, and some consumers complaining that the technology isn’t simple enough to use.

Wal-Mart has promised to support the initiative with what Warner Bros. Home Entertainment president Ron Sanders called “a massive promotional campaign on the scale of a blockbuster film launch.” Under the agreement, Wal-Mart’s consumer education campaign — which will involve dedicated staff at more than 3,500 stores to walk consumers through the UltraViolet sign-up process and authenticate their discs –will be funded by UltraViolet’s parent consortium, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem.

  1. It’s about time. I’ve been waiting for a service to let me convert my giant pile of DVDs into digital copies to stream for years, and it’s finally happening. 

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  2. Daniel, out of curiosity, are they actually uploading the discs, or simply ‘tagging’ them so you have the license to the cloud copy they already maintain in their system?  Uploading Gigabyte-volume discs would be an obvious non-starter for consumers, but if they’re simply matching movies to the same version in the cloud (and giving you a license to play that back), that’s a different story. 

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    1. Daniel Frankel Tuesday, March 13, 2012

      Joe, I don’t think there’s any actual uploading going on. They will just tag your disc and give you access to the digital version that’s already in the cloud. I think I’ve used the word “upload” in my description of this — which I won’t do anymore.

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  3. And BTW, Vudu is an incredible service! I’ve been using it for 3-4 years and their HD-stream technology and streaming library crushes Amazon, Netflix, Apple.

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    1. Daniel Frankel Tuesday, March 13, 2012

      Yes, I’ve been impressed with Vudu myself. I’ve tried it on three different devices and it’s worked seamlessly every time.

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      1. While Walmart generally doesn’t get me particularly excited about anything, the Walmart / Vudu fit seemed perfect.  A good way for the largest Disc retailer in the US to shift Studio thinking to a non-physical world.  Only danger – which I can’t understate – is if the Walmart / Studio relationship develops into somewhat of a monopolistic model where all other cloud movie services get screwed on video-release terms…

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  4. Steve Hoffenberg Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Daniel,
    Since, as you’ve now noted in your comment, UltraViolet is really “cloud access” to existing content put there by the movie studios, “Cloud Storage” in the title of this article is quite misleading.

    When I first saw the title, I thought it was about selling a backup service, like Carbonite.

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