Wal-Mart takes another crack at challenging Netflix

Five years after surrendering home video rentals to Netflix, Wal-Mart is back with the Vudu streaming-video service integrated into its Web store.

Retailing behemoth Wal-Mart Stores said today that it has added the Vudu streaming-video service to Walmart.com.

The move comes 18 months after Wal-Mart acquired Vudu and enables shoppers to stream Vudu titles or buy physical DVDs or Blue-ray discs from Walmart.com.

Customers can rent or buy movies and TV shows on a per-title basis. Netflix, the leader in distributing films and TV shows over the Web, rents movies for a monthly subscription fee, which, as it happens, is going up come September.

Wal-Mart launches Vudu on its Web site at an opportune time. Netflix announced earlier this month that it will boost prices as much as 60 percent for those who rent discs as well as stream video. Netflix looks more vulnerable than it has in a long time.

But Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart has tangled with Netflix before. In 2003, Wal-Mart launched an online DVD subscription service similar to Netflix. For $15.54 a month, Wal-Mart would ship DVDs to customers' homes. Things didn't work out and within two years, the retail chain was out of the movie rental business.

This time around, Wal-Mart has some help. Vudu's service can be streamed to over 300 devices, including HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc players, and the PlayStation 3.

Wal-Mart was once a huge distributor of DVDs, but I'm wondering if people just picked them up since they were there. Do consumers really think of Wal-Mart for movies when not in the store? It will be interesting to see how hard the retailer markets this service.

 

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