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Walmart: Ready to Shine Light on UltraViolet?

3/07/2012 9:30 AM

Next week, Walmart promises, “the way people enjoy movies will change.”

I’m guessing the world’s biggest retailer will be announcing support for UltraViolet, the Hollywood-led digital-locker system that lets customers purchase rights to watch movies or TV shows across multiple devices.

walmart_studios.jpgWalmart sent out a media alert that next Tuesday, March 13, it will make “a major entertainment announcement” in Los Angeles with five studio partners: Paramount, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner Bros.

Note that Vudu — the Internet-streaming service Walmart bought in 2010 for about $100 million — joined the UltraViolet consortium last year (see Sony Shines UltraViolet On Smurfs, Justin Timberlake and DECE Picks Solekai To Develop UltraViolet Compliance Tests).

UltraViolet is right up Walmart and Vudu’s alley.

Walmart (in theory) would sell more DVDs: Buy the disc, and stream it forever from wherever to whatever (in theory). And Vudu’s TV and movie content is available on Vudu.com, Walmart.com and on more than 300 Vudu-enabled CE devices including Apple’s iPad, Internet-capable HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc players and Sony’s PlayStation 3.

Last fall UltraViolet stumbled out of the gate, with users complaining about a glitch-ridden signup process and the fact that movies initially were available for streaming only through one service — Time Warner Inc.’s Flixster — and only on certain devices.

Last month the DECE consortium tried to show that UltraViolet is gaining momentum, with more than 1 million registered users.

What Walmart and Vudu have not done is take on Netflix (which also is an UltraViolet member). Netflix offers unlimited-access subscription to TV and movie content, as opposed to Vudu’s à la carte model.

Last summer Walmart integrated Vudu into Walmart.com, which now provides links to the streaming-video service alongside DVD search results.

Of course, Walmart’s Hollywood press conference could concern something altogether separate from UltraViolet. How about a combo set-top /popcorn popper? Now that would be a market differentiator.

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