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Wal-Mart Launches Video Downloads

Bentonville, Ark — Wal-Mart launched a beta version of its promised video-download service, said to be the first such service to offer movies and TV shows from all major Hollywood studios.

The downloads, in protected WMV format, are not playable on video iPods but are playable on multiple portable media players (PMPs) and video-capable MP3 players that support protected WMV content.

Wal-Mart’s launch follows last September’s introduction of Amazon’s Unbox video-download service, which offers movies from all the same studios as Wal-Mart’s site except for Disney/Pixar. Unbox also supports transfers to WMV-supported portables.

Wal-Mart’s beta service, using technology from HP Video Merchant Services, includes more than 3,000 movie and TV titles from major Hollywood studios and television networks and offers customers the convenient option of downloading movies and TV shows to their personal computers for viewing on PCs, laptops and portable media players.

The studios are 20th Century Fox, MGM, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, Walt Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros. and Universal. The TV networks and other content providers supplying video include Comedy Central, CW, FOX, FOX Reality, 20th Century Fox Television Classics, Fuel TV, FX, Logo, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., SPEED, The N, VH1, and Warner Bros.

New movies are available for download on the day of the DVD release at prices ranging from $12.88 to $19.88. Catalog titles start at $7.50. TV shows are $1.96 per episode.

Apple’s iTunes site, in contrast, offers 250 movies and 350 television shows. New movies are $14.99, and others are $9.99, according to the company’s Web site. TV shows are also $1.99 per episode.

Unlike iTunes, Wal-Mart also plans DVD/download bundles for select movie titles throughout the year, as it did last year when it offered its first movie for download, Superman Returns. In that bundle, customers who purchased the physical DVD got the option of downloading the same title for a small additional price for use on portable devices and PCs.