Walmart Launches Brilliant Scheme To Sell You Content You Already Own

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News Posted: Tue, Mar 13 2012 7:57 PM
Earlier this month we covered Walmart's burgeoning partnership with the Ultraviolet DRM system backed by major Hollywood studios and their plans to "assist" customers in registering DVDs with the Ultraviolet system. Walmart has since announced additional details to the program and it's a clever attempt to drive more users to Vudu, Walmart's subsidiary movie streaming service.

Here's how the service works. "Starting April 16th, 2012 in more than 3,500 stores, Walmart customers will be able to bring their DVD and Blu-ray collections to Walmart and receive digital access to their favorite titles from the partnering studios. An equal conversion for standard DVDs and Blu-ray discs will be $2. Standard DVDs can be upgraded to High-Def (HD) for $5." There's even a handy video:

Anyone who doesn't have a Vudu account will have one created for them as part of this process. That's part of the genius to the plan, if customers embrace the offer, Walmart signs up hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people for Vudu. The offer is only applicable to movies at this point in time, but that's still a huge potential market for the company's streaming service. Even better, from Walmart's perspective, is that first-time users who pony up $2 for a digital version of their DVDs are effectively paying to create Vudu accounts.

The $5 upgrade for an HD stream is particularly interesting. Vudu differentiates between HD and what it calls HDX; only the latter is 1080P. Viewers who opt for the $5 option are buying access to a lossy 720p stream as opposed to an upsampled 480P DVD. That's not to say Vudu's 720p stream is worse than an upsampled DVD, but we strongly suspect the difference between the two will be marginal. There doesn't appear to be an option to upgrade to what Vudu calls HDX (the company claims that their HDX technology offers such features as "psychovisual processing" and "color gradient processing" in addition to being 1080p).

The best part of this initiative (again, from Hollywood's perspective), is that it reinforces the idea that consumers should expect to pay for the right to access content they already own. A $2 fee is marginal -- these days, taking money out of an ATM that isn't affiliated with your bank will cost you twice that once both sides finish penalizing you. For Walmart and Hollywood, however, that $2 is nearly pure profit (the marginal cost of streaming one movie is tiny). Meanwhile, customers are getting a decent deal relative to Vudu's base prices. Vudu's average rental price is $2.99 (SD), $3.99 (HD) and $4.99 (HDX). Movies are available for purchase, typically for $14.99 (SD) and $19.99 (for both HD and HDX).

For consumers who want to move into the digital age but don't know how to handle the conversion themselves, this is actually a decent deal. We're a bit uneasy with the way Hollywood is re-monetizing the same content, but we'll likely see more of it as time goes by. The issue is further clouded when you consider that in some cases, updated technology really does vastly improve the source material. As someone who invested in the original Star Trek: TNG DVDs, I'm still downright excited by the re-releases that have been updated with remastered material and huge improvements to color and image quality. We're wary of handing Hollywood a blank check when it comes to selling us the same TV shows all over again -- but simultaneously willing to pony up when the improvements and additions truly make a difference.

There's no word yet on how this program ties into the Ultraviolet initiative, but the two are likely tied together on a deep level. Studios are pushing UV as the answer to the problems associated with streaming media, and programs like this are designed to make previously purchased material available online, even if we aren't confident they do so in the right way.
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FloydF replied on Wed, Mar 14 2012 6:00 AM

So, pay extra to stream videos I already own? Thank you but NO F*****G WAY! I already own it, If I want to watch it, I put the DVD in the player and play it not pay for streaming. Now if they want to charge me $2 for a non DRM digital file, I would go for that, but that's not going to happen. The only reason i would want to stream anything is if I am away from home, bored and in need of entertainment. However in that case, the cellular data cost is too prohibitive and it would probably be cheaper to go to an insanely expensive theater. I can already stream all the DVDs I own to any device in or around my home via WiFi, why do I want to pay Wally World?

I don,t know about the rest of you out there, but my internet isn't fast enough for HD streaming, especially not durring prime time when everyone is on the internet, nor is it reliable enough for this or all the other services that require you to be connected to use. I prefer to have to rely on equipment I own rather than that and equipment owned by multiple companies and influenced by government policies (legal or otherwise).

The entertainment industry can try whatever they want, but we as consumers decide what they get away with by refusing to pay for the BS they are pushing. I know morons who buy CDs and MP3s from itunes, which is what the music industry wants, but not many people believe the line from the RIAA thatn that is what you have to do to be legal. Most of the worls still believes in thet legal concept called "FAIR USE". If it was up to the RIAA and MPAA you would pay every time you watch a movie(for each person watching too) as well as each time and every person that listens to a song. I would rather do without, but than I am one of those people that refuses to pay to watch commercials. If I'm paying for content, I'm not watching commercials, and the next time I go to a theater that advertises a start time and I have to sit through 30 minutes of commercials, not previews, before the movie, is going to give me a full refund. Start times should reflect the start of the movie not the commercials, what every they want to play between the end of a movie and the start of the next one is their business, but don't advertise a movie starts at 4pm when it doesn;t start till 4:45pm after 30 minutes of commercials and 15 minutes of previews.

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RTietjens replied on Wed, Mar 14 2012 9:18 AM

For those who don't to pay someone else to convert their DVDs and BDs to digital format, I recommend Freemake Video Converter.

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WNutt replied on Wed, Mar 14 2012 11:50 AM

Am I missing something? $2 for unlimited streaming of your movie forever? Or is there an additional charge for each download? Because just the server space seems like a pretty decent deal to me.

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sweenjm replied on Wed, Mar 14 2012 12:16 PM

Do any of you actually pay for movies???? for real? i have a hard time believing that. screw Hollywood, screw Walmart, and screw Vudu. I hope they all go broke. I'm assuming most people here will see through the "brilliant" (evil, and designed to take advantage of the less computer savvy) marketing scheme. DC++ will solve all of your media wants and needs (in case you hadn't heard....movies, music, software, etc. is free). "But if everybody just rips off media, all the big companies and hollywood will go out of business" says some whiner, no doubt. I say GOOD...let hollywood go broke....maybe they will have to start making good stuff again instead of schlock.

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Thanks but i've been making my own hard drive based versions of DVDs and BluRays I own for years and years serving them up off my own private media server. I have no need for Walmart, VuDu or re-buying content i already own. Another scheme to take advantage of the technically inept.

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realneil replied on Wed, Mar 14 2012 9:29 PM

I do the same thing Bushmaster. No good reason to give these mooks any money. All they have to do is go out of business and everyone who paid them is skarood.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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AKwyn replied on Thu, Mar 15 2012 10:07 PM

This is a shame; I mean they're trying to pay for the content we already own and in exchange we get stuff like the ability to stream our content anywhere we want. I mean really, if they wanted to make money on content like this then they would of devised a way to do so way back when media is in it's infamy. Right now media has this set in stone mantal that if you buy it then you own it for life, you shouldn't have to pay for it to have continuous access; regardless of the extras that you get. If you want to stream, get Netflix; sure, it's somewhat the same as Vudu but you gain access to other movies and they got a pretty decent selection that justifies paying for content you already own. Vudu; nothing more but a scam, there's nothing that's worth the extra cost, nothing that makes you justify paying for content you already own and nothing that sets it apart from the pack morally.

I swear, Hollywood just wants to find more ways to make money; whether it's ethical or not.


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