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Wal-Mart will stream your own DVDs back to you--for a fee

The film studios' UltraViolet effort will likely receive a boost once Wal-Mart announces it will start making digital lockers available to customers.

Hollywood wants you to start buying movies. Wal-Mart is expected to announce today that it has joined UltraViolet, the cloud platform backed by most of the big studios.
Greg Sandoval/CNET

Wal-Mart, the country's largest retailer, is expected to announce today that it has adopted the UltraViolet cloud video platform.

Dan Rayburn, an analyst for research firm Frost & Sullivan, is reporting that Wal-Mart plans to charge between $2 and $4 to customers who want cloud access to the movies they've purchased on DVD. Customers would be required to cart their discs into Wal-Mart brick-and-mortar locations, said Rayburn, citing discussions with studio executives. Wal-Mart's cloud would be UV compatible.

The cloud is the term used to describe the process of storing digital information on a third party's servers. The benefit of storing movies this way is the ability to access them from any Web-connected device. Hollywood is hoping UV, which is a set of standards and specifications, will seed their vision of the cloud.

The five of the six Hollywood film studios backing UV, want to persuade people to buy movies again. They hope that offering ubiquitous access to films will help entice people to collect titles like they once did with DVDs. For those of you saying, "Meh, I'll stick with Netflix," I ask whether you've taken a good look at Netflix's streaming-film library lately. You might need a supplement.

Price and convenience are vital so we'll wait to see what Wal-Mart charges for cloud titles and how many hoops consumers will have to jump through to get to their digital lockers. The knock on UltraViolet services, the few that have launched so far, has been that they've been clunky to use.

CNET first reported on the negotiations between Wal-Mart and the consortium that created the UV technology in September. The inclusion of Wal-Mart is a step forward for UV. The group has been slow to sign retailers and hardware manufacturers.