Back before the digital UlraViolet format went live in 4Q11, one of its promises was to let customers register their DVDs to unlock the digital version. So far that hasn't happened. In fact, the only way to receive an UltraViolet copy thus far has been to purchase a Blu-ray bundle which in itself are somewhat limited in selection.
The big selling point with UltraViolet has also been the ability to watch these digital copies on any device, but that too has been severely limited. As it stands now, UltraViolet really hasn't done anything to change the face of media consumption. It's seemingly caused more confusion as to where consumers need to invest their money for the long term, and that's mostly to blame on the bickering studios themselves and their need for control.
To some degree, UltraViolet made a small step towards its goal on Tuesday. Starting April 16, Walmart will offer a service to customers that will essentially unlock UltraViolet versions of their physical DVD and Blu-ray discs. Naturally this "conversion" won't be free, as an equal conversion for standard DVDs and Blu-ray discs will be $2 whereas standard DVDs can be upgraded to High-Def (HD) for $5.
The new service sounds promising, as Walmart has made a solid offering by partnering with Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Customers will require a VUDU account -- which is free to set up and use -- which will stream the digital movies to more than 300 internet connected devices.
"Walmart is helping America get access to their DVD library," said John Aden, executive vice president for general merchandising, Walmart U.S. "Walmart Entertainment’s new disc-to-digital service will allow our customers to reconnect with the movies they already own on a variety of new devices, while preserving the investments they’ve made in disc purchases over the years."
To get the UltraViolet copies, customers simply head into Walmart's Photo Center and hand over their discs to an associate. After setting up a VUDU account, customers tell the associate how they want their movie served up and then the digital copes will be authorized in the VUDU account. No upload is necessary, and customers get to keep their precious discs. It sounds quicker than ordering a Happy Meal at McDonald's.
Obviously this solution isn't for everyone -- it's focused on the consumer with a DVD and/or Blu-ray collection. Right now there's no real means of purchasing an UltraViolet movie outright, but that's reportedly coming soon from retailers like Amazon and maybe even Walmart itself. Walmart's current solution is somewhat of a step forward, but so far VUDU movies can only be streamed to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, certain HDTVs and Blu-ray players, the Mac and PCs platforms, and Apple's iPad. Smartphones and Android tablets are not on the list.
"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.