Wal-Mart jumps into the downloadable movie market

Wal-Mart is joining the likes of Amazon, Apple and Microsoft by providing downloadable movie and TV show content for users. Wal-Mart’s entry into this market was rumored as far back as September of 2006. The company on Tuesday launched a new beta service from which users can choose from roughly 3,000 movies and television shows.

For its initial offering, Wal-Mart has signed on with only one of the four major television networks: Fox. The company is currently in talks to provide content from ABS, CBS and NBC. Wal-Mart's service does, however, feature content from MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

The company will offer movie downloads for as low as $7.50 for existing titles and as high as $19.88 for new titles. TV shows will be offered for $1.96 each.

Wal-Mart will also feature movie downloads from all of the major film studios. While Apple has only signed on Walt Disney Co. and Paramount Studios, Wal-Mart has backing from those two companies in addition to Sony, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner Bros.

"Customers have a growing interest in downloading video content, but complementary and supplemental to buying content on DVD," said Kevin Swint, Wal-Mart's divisional manager for digital media.

According to Adams Media Research, the online movie market has an estimated 5-year forecast of $4 billion USD in revenue. This is compared to a $27 billion USD for DVD rentals and sales.

All downloadable content will be viewable on a PC or transferable to a Windows Media portable device. Not surprisingly, Apple's iPod and Mac computers will not be able to take advantage of the service.

"The real problem is people want to watch these movies on their television set. There already is an effective way to do that, which is to buy a DVD," said Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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