Wal-Mart Stores, the largest retailer in the world, is once again offering movies for rental or purchase through Walmart.com -- this time via its digital movie arm, Vudu.
Wal-Mart in March 2010 paid about $100 million to acquire Vudu, a privately held startup that offered 16,000 videos for rent or download-to-own through Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray Disc players and set-tops.
On Tuesday, Wal-Mart announced that thousands of digital Vudu titles including new releases are available directly on Walmart.com at www.walmart.com/vudu. The movies can be streamed or downloaded from Walmart.com, Vudu.com, or from one of more than 300 Vudu-enabled devices including select HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc players and Sony's PlayStation 3.
Movies are available at Walmart.com to rent for 99 cents to $5.99 or to buy starting at $4.99 and up.
It's a do-over for Wal-Mart: In December 2007 the retailer shut down its video downloads service after technology services it had contracted for with the large computing firm Hewlett-Packard were discontinued.
Vudu is a member of the studio-led Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem coalition, whose UltraViolet "digital locker" system is designed to let consumers buy a piece of digital media once and then download or stream it to different devices after authenticating access rights. DECE expects UltraViolet to launch commercially later this year. However, Wal-Mart's service makes no mention of UltraViolet.
To promote the Vudu launch on Walmart.com, the company is letting fans on Walmart's Facebook page vote for a new release title that will be available to rent for 99 cents. The title with the most votes by 5 p.m. ET Wednesday will be available to rent for just 99 cents on Friday, July 29.
The Vudu service is available on Internet-capable HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players from Funai Electronics (Magnavox, Sylvania), LG Electronics, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, SANYO, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba and Vizio, and on the PlayStation 3.
Wal-Mart operates 9,029 retail outlets in 15 countries and has more than 2 million employees worldwide.