February 7, 2007
Wal-Mart Downloads and TiVo/Amazon Unbox Connection Making Industry Headlines

The big news today is the full-fledged launch by Wal-Mart into the video movie download market, starting with a beta version of the product that features 3,000 television shows and films in the available library, followed by the Amazon/TiVo announcement that Amzon Unbox will be unveiling on TiVo.

To deal with these in chronological order, first with Wal-Mart.

The service unveiled yesterday. Oh, but you can't use a Mac. And...well...you can't use the Firefox browser. At least that's what has several bloggers upset with the new service on its unveiling, covered for instance by Paula Zargaj-Reynolds at Advertising Is Good For You. She writes, "You'd think with all the 'Wal-Mart sucks' bumper stickers, T-shirts and blog posts out there, Wal-Mart would be trying to improve its image by not greeting its website visitors with the Internet equivalent of 'F-you!'"

Meanwhile, Michael at DVD Dossier provides some real-time coverage of the service as a Firefox user.

What it seems to lack infrastructure the company hopes to make up for in pricing and service. In case you didn't know, at Wal-Mart, they "sell for less," with $1.96 an episode for TV shows. And on board already is a variety of content from C3 partner MTV Networks, including Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., VH1, Logo, and The N. Also on board is 20th Century Fox Television Classics, Fox, Fox Reality, and Fuel, as well as SPEED, Warner Brothers, and the CW, along with studio partners 20th Century Fox, Disney, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc (MGM), Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Gone are the days when programming from one network was enough to make the news.

The films will be prices $12.88 to $19.88. And Wal-Mart plans to make a burn-to-DVD service available later in the year.

TelevisionWeek's Daisy Whitney writes, "Wal-Mart, the biggest retailer, faces stiff competition from iTunes, which has dominated the online video delivery business since launching its groundbreaking service in October 2005. ITunes has fended off competition from other newcomers by building on its initial library of ABC shows and making some films available for download the same day they go on sale on DVD."

However, she points out that Wal-Mart currently has about 40 percent of all DVD sales in the country.

Meanwhile, the Amazon/TiVo announcement came out directly after Wal-Mart's, with Amazon Unbox on TiVo currently beta testing before widespread availability. The plan is for Amazon Unbox content to be downloaded direclty to a TiVo box and will then appear with all other recorded TiVo programs.

The TV shows will be $9.99, with movies between $9.99 and $14.99. All movies and shows purchased will be available through the traditional Unbox platform as well as the TiVo. More information is available from Michael at The DVD Dossier and the Amazon page for the service, which assures users that content downloaded can be "on up to 2 PCs or TiVos and 2 portable devices at any one time" and that deleting content from the TiVo after viewing will not delete it from the Unbox media library, where it can always be re-downloaded.

The announcement of the Amazon came in the early hours of the morning, while I was still asleep, and may have made someone at Gizmodo wet their pants, according to their immediate response claiming this "could be a killer app in the digital video distribution arms race."

Steve Poland thinks the Amazon/TiVo announcement has stolen Wal-Mart's thunder, but it's hard to say since both are important industry moves.

What do you think is the bigger announcement of the two for the future of digital downloading? The major DVD retailer coming aboard to digital content or a link between a digital TV and film download service and a DVR?



I think Amazon and where this could lead them is the much bigger story here:



gzino, thanks for the link and your analysis of the Amazon announcement.

On February 12, 2007 at 6:51 PM, Jgreen said:

This service, so far, is horrible! The help files on the site are misguiding when it comes to how you play your files on Xbox360, and on how to back up your movies to DVD/CD. I called their so-called customer support line only to be told, "sorry, but we are in beta still...". This is just another pathetic excuse at how large companies can rip people off and get away with providing bad service. Now I have paid for a movie that I can't watch on my TV via Xbox360, and can't back up to disc. Guess I should be happy getting told, "sorry"...I'll never use walmart again.


Thanks for describing another of the "beta" problems with the Wal-Mart service. Knowing that there are plenty of people who use their Xbox360, I'm sure this will be an issue for plenty of others as well.