Walmart.com has just launched a movie download service , which is currently listed with a “beta” status. The new Walmart service is the first digital distribution provider to offer movie titles from ALL 6 major Hollywood movie studios. Those studios include Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner. Unfortunately the Walmart movie download website was not rendering properly in Firefox when I visited, so Internet Explorer may be required.
So why have we not seen movie downloads from all of the major studios sooner than this? Probably because the major Hollywood studios have always been skeptical of the digital form factor, fearing that the digitial DRM or encryption mechanisms were not strong enough. Their concerns are not very valid though, as almost any form of encryption or copy protection can be broken or circumvented with enough time and effort. Interestingly enough, Walmart.com actually encourages their customers to protect their investment by backing up the downloaded movie files! Check out the Backup Your Files page screenshot below. The Backup page also states that your Walmart Video Downloads account will be linked to any backup DVD discs that you burn. This means that Walmart is probably including a customer number or other unique identifier embedded within the video download to help trace any abuse or illegal distribution.
Gizmodo also has some excellent coverage on the launch and discusses the movie download pricing. Gizmodo says that “Movies will run from $12.88 to $19.88 on the day the DVD drops, while older flicks start at $7.50. All movies will have roughly the same price as the actual DVD at Wal-Mart stores, though. This is also the deal’s biggest flaw in our viewâ€”why pay almost what you’d pay for the actual DVD? Intriguingly mentioned is the possibility of discounts for people who buy both DVDs and digital videos.”
Great point from Gizmodo on the pricing. With Walmart saving or eliminating the costs of DVD replication, retail box production, printing, shipping and other aspects, why should the downloads cost almost the same amount as a retail DVD? This probably has to do with the movie studios wholesale pricing, which they are most certainly trying to keep as high as possible in order to maintain maximum profits. Perhaps we will see the movie downloads pricing drop in the future, but for now a download will cost you almost the same price as a retail boxed DVD movie.