An interesting announcement today from Walmart’s Vudu, the digital movie and TV rental service that’s similar to Apple’s iTunes. It has begun to let customers offer access to the UltraViolet-enabled content in their libraries to as many as five people. Invitees in the “Share My Movies by Vudu” initiative have to create an account with Vudu, which is free, or link the Walmart service to their existing UltraViolet digital lockers. Then they get to see or download whatever’s in the inviter’s library — including select DVDs added via Vudu’s Disc to Digital service. “We know you’ve spent a significant amount of money and time building your collection and have plenty more films to add to it,” Vudu Senior Director Amit Balan says in a blog post. “Share My Movies by Vudu is another way we’re helping you get the most out of your collection.” Remember that Disney isn’t a member of UltraViolet — it has its own digital locker service called Disney Movies Everywhere. So its content is out. At the end of 2013 UltraViolet had more than 15M consumer accounts that could access 12,200 movies and TV shows from 10 major content providers.
The goal is to create an industry standard to provide consumers who buy digital copies of movies additional features, much like they experience when they buy DVD and Blu-ray discs. “We have seen in all of our research and studies with consumers that they’d like to see a better price-value relationship around digital ownership,” Sony Pictures Home Entertainment EVP of Worldwide Digital and Commercial Strategy Jim Underwood tells me. Sony and Wal-Mart will kick things off today by offering what they call VUDU Extras+, a collection of enhancements for those who buy streaming rights to a movie from Wal-Mart’s service or redeem their UltraViolet code on VUDU and watch the movie on a PC or Mac. They’ll be included with the sci-fi thriller District 9. Later this year Sony will include VUDU Extras+ with This Is the End, After Earth, White House Down, Grown Ups 2, Mortal Instruments, Smurfs 2, and One Direction — This Is Us. There’ll be no difference in price vs versions without the extras. One feature, “Enhanced Scene Search,” enables viewers to use dialogue or other cues to jump to favorite scenes. Another feature, “Clip & Share,” makes it easy to post certain scenes to Facebook or Twitter. (Probably not any scenes with nudity — and friends will be encouraged to buy the film, of course.) Although some retailers already offer additional content, “many of the extras out there now are a separately viewed file,” Underwood says. “In the digital space we believe the extras should have interactivity and the ability to engage with them in real time while you’re watching the film.”
DreamWorks Animation titles were added to Walmart’s disc-to-digital Vudu service that launched today at more than 3,500 stores. Vudu bridges the hard goods DVD/Blu-Ray business with the newer digital download efforts. Walmart customers can now get digital copies of movies they’ve purchased on disc from Paramount Home media Distribution, Sony Picgtures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Among the DWA films available in the cloud starting today are Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, the Shrek films and How To Train Your Dragon.
UltraViolet’s had a rocky start. Consumers have struggled to figure out what it is and how it works — and the studios backing the industry initiative have hungered to have a big retailer help walk people through the process. That’s what makes the new alliance with WalMart interesting. Starting on April 16 consumers will be able to take their home videos to some 3,500 WalMart stores and have them converted to digital files stored in the retailer’s Vudu digital storage facilities for Internet streaming. It will cost $2 to transfer a DVD or a Blu-ray disc, and $5 to have a DVD upgraded to a high-definition file. Users must open a free account with WalMart’s Vudu, and go to its site to access digital files. “It will encourage customers to continue buying physical DVDs,” says John Aden, WalMart’s EVP General Merchandise. WalMart has the exclusive right to convert discs to digital in stores. (Samsung has announced a Blu-ray player that will transfer discs to digital for UltraViolet.) The company also plans a “multimonth educational campaign” both in and out of its stores to help people figure out what to do with their discs and how to access movies on mobile and other digital devices. New releases that are UltraViolet enabled already provide buyers with the opportunity to stream a digital file.
San Francisco, October 18, 2011—Dolby Laboratories, Inc., (NYSE: DLB) today enabled the first discrete 7.1-channel surround sound entertainment experience available to streaming media using Dolby® Digital Plus audio. VUDU, a leading subscription-free, video-on-demand movie service and wholly owned subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., began streaming Walt Disney Pictures’ Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 audio today.
Walmart is about to fire a warning shot at Apple’s iTunes: The retail colossus will introduce on Wednesday a way for iPad users to access VUDU’s Web site to buy or rent videos and view them on the tablet. ”We’re committed to offering the VUDU experience on as many devices as possible so customers can shop for and access their favorite movies and TV shows however they want, whenever they want,” says VUDU general manager Edward Lichty. Walmart has a mixed track record in video. Although it’s the leading seller of DVDs, the retail chain failed in an effort to create a Netflix-like mail rental service. It also stumbled in its partnership with Hewlett Packard to offer movie downloads. Walmart bought VUDU in 2010 and has slowly been building it into a service that’s too powerful to ignore. The retailer says that VUDU is available on more than 300 electronics devices including the PlayStation 3, making it the most widely accessible broadband pay-per-view service. Its library includes more than 20,000 movies and TV shows and can be streamed at full 1080p high-definition video quality with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound.
Keep an eye on the retail colossus as the online streaming business takes shape. Walmart wants to be a player, and VUDU — the service it bought in March 2010 — provides a strong foundation. VUDU has more than 20,000 movie titles that consumers can buy online or rent for $2 for two nights. The news this morning is that the company is integrating VUDU into the popular Walmart.com website. But you can be sure that Walmart has bigger plans. Here’s the release:
SANTA CLARA, Calif. and BRISBANE, Calif., July 26, 2011 – Demonstrating its commitment to e-commerce and goal of offering customers “one continuous shopping” channel, Walmart today announced the integration of its popular movie streaming service, VUDU, on Walmart.com. Customers can now shop for thousands of digital VUDU titles, including the hottest new releases, and purchase and/or rent them directly on Walmart.com at www.walmart.com/vudu.
As customers shop for movies at Walmart.com, they now have the option to select the digital VUDU title and/or the physical title (DVD or Blu-ray Disc). Those who select the digital title complete their transaction through Walmart.com’s checkout, and then can easily stream the movie directly from Walmart.com, VUDU.com, or from one of more than 300 VUDU-enabled devices, including select HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc players and the PlayStation®3.