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.