Download Your Movies from…Wal-Mart?

For a couple weeks—along with launch rumors of Amazon Unbox and Apple’s iTunes movie download service—a few bubbles floated to the surface that real-world mega-retailer Wal-Mart was considering getting into the digital movie download business. Now, those rumors are being substantiated by reporting in mainstream financial press (including Money and The Financial Times). Apparently Wal-Mart really does want to enter the movie download market toward the end of 2006, and is advertising for a high-level manager to handle the business unit. But can the retailer succeed in the online space, or will the effort meet the same success as its online music efforts?

Wal-Mart has proved enormously successful at marketing traditional DVD media, accounting for more than 40 percent of new DVD sales in the United States, according to the NPD Group. Following the Wal-Mart credo, DVD releases are offered at low retail prices, which draws in consumers and forces Hollywood to treat Wal-Mart as a special case retailer, kowtowing to its wishes so as not to jeopardize DVD sales through the chain. However, Wal-Mart has been in the digital music download business since 2003, offering songs at prices that undercut Apple’s iTunes Music Store—and, yet, Wal-Mart’s digital music business has failed to grow.

At this point, it’s unclear how Wal-Mart could distinguish itself from existing movie download services like Movielink and CinemaNow, or newcomers like Amazon Unbox and Apple’s iTunes (coupled early next year with the forthcoming iTV player)—except on price. Rumors have Wal-Mar bundling discounted or free downloads with sales of physical DVD media, but that seems to take the appeal out of downloading music: why would customers go to a physical store, just so they can go home again and spend more hours downloading enormous movie files—especially if they already have the DVD in their hands? Isn’t the whole point of downloadable movies to save customers the hassle of going to a retailer? (Of course, if you’re a regular Wal-Mart customer anyway, perhaps combining physical and digital movie purchases makes sense). But Wal-Mart’s music business has proven that price (and price alone) isn’t enough to create a successful download business—that seems to require the full package of ease of use, necessary functionality, and compelling content. Wal-Mart definitely has the retailing clout to bring major studios to its service, but it remains to be seen whether the retailer can bring anything else to the table.

Product Review

Simple and reliable, Apple's AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds

Apple’s AirPods wireless headphones have dominated the market essentially since they hit stores in December 2016. Though not without some faults, they cracked the connectivity code to rank among the best fully wireless earbuds you can…
Movies & TV

Comcast launches Xfinity Flex, a $5-a-month service aimed at cord cutters

For $5 a month, Xfinity Flex gives existing Xfinity internet subscribers a 4K- and HDR-ready set-top box that can stream video from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, as well as free TV from apps like Cheddar and ESPN3.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in several genres for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Movies & TV

Disney completes its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox

Now that Walt Disney Company has closed its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox's movie and television assets, what does this future hold for franchises like X-Men, the Fantastic Four, The Simpsons, and the rest?

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Home Theater

ESPN Plus scores the exclusive rights to UFC Pay-Per-View events

If MMA is your game, then ESPN Plus is now a very important player. The Disney-owned service locked up the exclusive rights to UFC Pay-Per-View events, a deal that will last through 2025 in the United States.
Home Theater

There isn’t a single good reason to buy Apple’s new AirPods

After nearly a three-year wait, Apple has finally announced a new version of its popular true wireless headphones, the AirPods. We had high hopes for vast improvements, but that's not what we got.
Home Theater

Dish TV customers can access up to 13 NCAA March Madness games in 4K

If you're a basketball fan looking to get your fix of NCAA Championship action in 4K, Dish TV will be airing up to 13 of the tournament games in the ultra high-def format, starting on Tuesday.
Home Theater

Cheer for your favorite NCAA team and Xfinity will respond with matching lights

Screaming at your favorite team just became a lot more rewarding thanks to Comcast's Xfinity voice remote and some special NCAA commands that set your smart lightbulbs to your favorite team's colors.

Amazon slashes prices on UE Boom and MegaBoom 3 Bluetooth speakers

With just the right combination of great sound, a rugged design, and an overall sleek aesthetic, the UE MegaBoom 3 is our favorite Bluetooth speaker. And Amazon is offering a rare discount on it right now.
Movies & TV

Stranger Things season 3 is coming! Here’s everything we know so far

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season, premiering in July 2019.
Home Theater

Here’s what’s new on HBO and what’s leaving in April 2019

Whether you're a cable lifer or a staunch cord cutter, there's never been a better time to get down with premium TV. April 2019 brings Game of Thrones season 8, BlacKkKlansman, and Crazy Rich Asians to HBO.
Home Theater

Tipping point? Streaming subscribers outnumbered cable in 2018 for first time

2018 was a very good year for the entertainment business as a whole, but it was especially good for streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon, says a new report by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Home Theater

TCL drops the price of its 75-inch 6-Series 4K Roku TV to $1,500

March is a great time for TV deals, and we've got a whopper: TCL has taken $300 off the price of its superb 75-inch 6-Series 4K HDR Roku TV, making it $1,500. That's the lowest price ever on this affordable TV.