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Walmart Launches Disc-to-Digital Service

Walmart Logo - H 2012

Partners with Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. to convert consumers’ DVD/Blu-Ray Discs to digital.

Retail giant Walmart launched an in-store disc-to-digital service, powered by video streaming service and Walmart subsidiary VUDU, and in partnership with five major Hollywood studios, to help consumers to convert their DVD and Blu-Ray discs into digital titles.

The stakeholders suggest that this offers consumers a way to “preserve their investment” in physical media and hope it will play a role in realizing the promise of UltraViolet.

In launching the service, Walmart has partnered with Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

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Noting that an estimated 10 billion discs have been purchased in the North American market to date, Ron Sanders, president, Warner Home Video, commented that if even a small portion of those are converted to digital, then UltraViolet has the potential to become the largest cloud-based library.

With Walmart Entertainment’s service, consumers would bring their DVD and Blu-Ray Discs to a participating Walmart location where an associate would help them to authorize UltraViolet copies of supported titles, and create a free VUDU account where the titles will be stored in the cloud (consumers would kept the physical media). Customers have the ability to watch, as well as purchase additional UltraViolet-enabled titles, directly from VUDU.com.

The Walmart service, set to launch on April 16 in more than 3,500 stores, costs $2 per DVD or Blu-Ray, or $5 per DVD should the consumer wish to upgrade it to high definition. $2-5 was the "sweet spot" following price testing, according to John Aden, executive vp for general merchandising at Walmart US.

This service will accommodate any UltraViolet supported content from the participating studios.

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At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, it was announced that roughly 20 titles were available for UltraViolet, which had a soft launch in the U.S. last October.

But that number might see a big jump. A couple thousand of Warners’ titles will be supported as the Walmart service ramps up, Warners’ Sanders told The Hollywood Reporter. Industry wide, he predicts that there might be several thousand.

David Bishop, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, described the launch of the Walmart service as a “monumental step forward for UltraViolet.”

“The unmatched reach of Walmart – which serves over 140 million consumers every week – means we can quickly grow awareness for this unique technology throughout every region across the country,” said Dennis Maguire, president, Worldwide Home Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures. A marketing campaign is planned.

UltraViolet is a cloud-based service for maintaining personal digital libraries that can be accessed anywhere and on any supported device including televisions, tablets, smartphones and gaming consoles. It was developed and launched by industry consortium Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), whose roughly 70 members include Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros. and Walmart.

Apple and Disney remain absent from the DECE roster.