The rumors are true: Walmart has just announced that it is launching an in-store "disc-to-digital" service powered by its existing Vudu on-demand solution, powered by UltraViolet. Walmart has partnered with five studios: Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Brothers. Adding a standard definition copy of a DVD or HD copy of a Blu-ray will cost two dollars, while upgrading DVDs to HD will cost five dollars. Walmart is also claiming that any movies that customers have acquired through other UltraViolet sources (like the UltraViolet digital copies that come with some Blu-ray purchases) will be playable through Vudu, as well. We've heard promises like this before, but UltraViolet integration has been rather fragmented up to this point, so we'll see how it works in practice. This program will roll out in Walmart stores on April 16th. Walmart stressed that users would keep their discs, but it isn't clear yet what Walmart will do to keep multiple users from buying digital copies from the same DVD or Blu-ray.
Executives from the five movie studios joined Walmart executive VP John Aden on stage for this event, and the consistent message is that this will be a "seamless" way for customers to move their physical movies to the digital realm and that this will be a coming out party for UltraViolet to help it gain mass awareness and adoption amongst consumers (something that's definitely been a problem thus far). There's also a massive marketing campaign planned that is "on the scale of a blockbuster film launch," so we'll definitely be hearing about this program over the course of the year.
The major strength of this program sounds like the use of Vudu — this service is already available on the PS3, Xbox 360, and a variety of Blu-ray players and Smart TVs, so users will be able to easily bring their new digital copies to the living room. If users are truly able to play UltraViolet movies from other solutions like Flixster and Paramount side-by-side with Vudu, UltraViolet might finally gain some traction amongst consumers.