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Wal-Mart Closes Online Movie Download Service

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the hard-to-fight-the-flix dept.

Businesses 136

eldavojohn writes "A year after opening its movie download service, Wal-Mart has abandoned the endeavor. They claim this is a result of HP's decision to stop supporting its video download store software. The article also notes that, unlike iTunes, Wal-Mart offered variable pricing which attracted a lot of studios. 'The world's largest retailer instead turned its rental service over to Netflix Inc. Wal-Mart still operates a music download service and continues to sell CDs and DVDs at retail stores and over the Internet for shipping by mail.' Is this evidence of the strength of unified pricing in media downloads or just another company being squished by the giant Netflix & Apple?"

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136 comments

Wal-Mart "squished"? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21841464)

Wal-Mart "squished"? I'd like to see that honestly.

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (2, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841508)

You beat me to it.

I was gonna say.

[...] or just another company being squished by the giant Netflix & Apple?


You mean for once WalMart isn't the one doing the squishing? How'd that happen?

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (2, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841676)

While Wal-Mart has completely taken over small-town America, it is actively resisted by urban residents, and the company has been beaten back from establishing footholds on the outskirts of many city centers. See Fishman's The Wal-Mart Effect [amazon.com] for more on this division between success in some areas and defeats in others. City dwellers (therefore a fairly large amount of Americans), have shown that Wal-Mart's offerings aren't too appealing, and the company has had no luck finding a way into their hearts.

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (2, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841850)

You could also try the book here [walmart.com] , too.

It's hard to be all things to all people.

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841864)

I think you're misjudging city dwellers. In my experience, whether or not Wal-Mart is really challenged depends almost entirely on whether or not there's an aggressive neighborhood association in the area where they want to build. In cities where Wal-Marts are present, they are generally always crowded, and presumably make good money.

Here in Austin, which is admittedly not a huge metropolis but is a good sized city, there are already several Wal-Mart stores, and I guarantee none of them are hurting for customers. However, there is a neighborhood association in north Austin that has been trying to block a Wal-Mart from being built near them for close to two years now. What's odd about that effort is that the area Wal-Mart wants to build in is currently occupied by a dilapidated mall that is mostly empty and rarely sees much traffic. They claim that having a Wal-Mart there would drive down property values (although I have seen plenty of very upscale neighborhoods located right next to Wal-Marts) more than having a mostly empty run-down mall does now. Personally, I think if another discount store that wasn't called Wal-Mart wanted to build there, no one would have any issue with it.

Personally, I rarely shop at Wal-Mart mostly because it's always too crowded and the marginal savings on decent stuff (the really cheap stuff is almost universally garbage) isn't worth the hassle. However, I doubt Wal-Mart spends a lot of time worrying about how to make their stores less crowded for my benefit.

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (2, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841984)

I think the GP isn't talking about suburbs but the actual city. We're talking full blown cities. I have friends who live in and around Chicago. They walk or take public transportation everywhere. Their local deli, the local grocery store. Have maybe 15 parking spots total. Walmart doesn't fit into this 'life style' You don't have 5 acres to put a 800 spot parking lot and a huge store. City dwellers are happy not having to drive anywhere.

In the suburbs, you have a huge sub division with cookie cutter houses and 2.5 children per house. No public transportation nothing. If you have to drive somewhere, you're probably going to want to drive one place rather than 100. This is where walmart is thriving. As population density drops it makes more sense.

And yes, Chicago hates "Big box stores" because they're not union. Target, Meijer, Walmart, etc. They're all non-union and I don't think a single one is within City limits (there wasn't last time I checked).

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (1)

bastafidli (820263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842096)

I live in north dallas which is pretty much exactly in the middle of highly populated area (no suburbs) with several million dollar neighborhoods around it. Two years ago they torn down old mall and built walmart in its place. Walmart attracted many other stores (B&N, Circuit City, Petco, Ulta, DSW, ...) and restaurants. The area is now really hopping. I am actually really happy it is there.

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842948)

That wouldn't happen to be the "Yuppie Walmart" by any chance.

Not all Walmarts are interchangeable. They used to be but they
seem to be getting away from that. As a company they seem good
about collecting BI and actually acting on it.

There are plenty of cheap bastards in the suburbs. Even people
who otherwise have a dedication to paying good money, for good
stuff and then keeping it and using it past the time it becomes
an antique are attracted by the allure of "cheap".

There are also people that want a decent head of cauliflower too.
A market that can support more than just walmart will have more
than just walmart. Not all of walmart's competitors are all
sitting around contemplating new ways to run themselves out of
business.

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (3, Interesting)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842116)

Walmart doesn't fit into this 'life style'

If that were true, then the city wouldn't have needed to pass laws to make it impossible for WM to open up.

Chicago is surrounded by 42 Wall-Marts and the city-dwellers are exceptionally eager for WM jobs and services. Witness this from George Will's column on the issue:

This suburb, contiguous with Chicago's western edge, is 88 percent white. A large majority of the customers of the Wal-Mart that sits here, less than a block outside Chicago, are from the city, and more than 90 percent of the store's customers are African American.

You can read the full column here. [jewishworldreview.com]

Every political criticism of WM - everyone of them that I have ever heard - is a lie.

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842172)

With huge metroplexes like Chicago, things are different for a variety of reasons. However, to clarify, the north Austin neighborhood I'm referring to is not a suburb, it's in the city of Austin, a few miles from downtown. Actually, according to a recent newspaper article, the neighborhood is almost exactly in the center of population for the Austin metro area.

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (1)

phoenixwade (997892) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842412)

In the suburbs, you have a huge sub division with cookie cutter houses and 2.5 children per house. No public transportation nothing. If you have to drive somewhere, you're probably going to want to drive one place rather than 100. This is where walmart is thriving. As population density drops it makes more sense.
It's more complicated than "they win in the Suburbs" I live in Jax, Florida,we have (last time I counted) 15 Wally Worlds within 30 miles of Downtown, over half are in the city proper, and all of them have had a positive impact on commercial enterprises in the areas they are in, except for the small business owners who competed directly with them. On the other hand, small and large retail outlets the don't compete directly, (like restaurants, and specialty stores) seem to thrive in those areas, and some low level competition that offer either big box competition (Best Buy and Circuit city) or compete directly but have a special gimmick (the Apple store, or some smaller hardware stores) seem to do well.

The neighborhood objections we've seen here have a two pronged motivation; either they don't want commercial establishments in the neighborhood
or there is some objection specifically to Walmarts business practices. In either case, rejection of the Walmart in a given area here is pretty meaningless, since you are a maximum of 6 miles from any Walmart, and the vast majority of this city owns a vehicle. (Mass Transit in Jax is a joke...) so you are pretty much 10 minutes from a Walmart, no matter where you are (even if they atopped building them here, which they won't)

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841988)

<i>However, I doubt Wal-Mart spends a lot of time worrying about how to make their stores less crowded for my benefit.</i>

They have been fighting to open another store in your area for a while.

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842410)

I've watched several documentaries on people "resisting" Wal-Mart. I can't think of any single 'resistance fighter' that wasn't a small store owner. The fact that these small stores, with their high prices and limited selection, go out of business so quickly would indicate that the great majority of people find their product offerings to be very appealing.

I'm an urban resident, and I shop at Wal-Mart. I don't find their crap to be any less appealing than the crap at Lowe's, Home Depot, Target, Food Lion, the local flea market, etc. It's all the cheapest made object that will just barely do the intended job till the warranty runs out, because experience proves that is what people REALLY want. You can cry and whine that you're willing to pay more for a quality product, but the vast majority are eyeing the price tag, and not much else.

$20 for a downloable CD? I, like many my fellow Americans, will wait till a REAL CD is in the bargain bin for $9.99.

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (1)

MyNameIsEarl (917015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842672)

In NYC the resistance is the labor unions. This is a union town.

New slogan. (2, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842256)

Wal-Mart: We Sell Out For Less!

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842432)

Even funnier is teeny little wal mart squished by "giant" apple and netflix. What alternate universe does the submitter live in anyway?

Re:Wal-Mart "squished"? (3, Insightful)

Divebus (860563) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842902)

Wal-Mart got squished by doing what the studios wanted, not what the consumers wanted.

Cost and lack of extras the reason. (5, Insightful)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841466)

I never used the service myself, but apparently, the movies cost $20 each. For that price you could back up to DVD three times, but not to a format that played in a DVD player. Also, you didn't get the extras that typically come on a DVD. So you paid more money, for less content, that could be used in less places. And they wonder why it wasn't successful?

Re:Cost and lack of extras the reason. (2, Insightful)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841868)

Exactly.

Compound that with the fact that there is probably a Walmart (or some other large dicount retailer) within 5 miles of your home in most major areas.

If I can get in my car, drive to the actual Walmart, buy the superior product for the same or often less than the one online, and be back at home in under 20 minutes ... erm, why would I buy the DRM restricted POS online?

- Roach

Re:Cost and lack of extras the reason. (1)

Kristoph (242780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842596)

How much do you earn an hour? If your an average software developer maybe $40-60, so that 20 minutes is $13-20. If your a somewhat experienced 'consultant' maybe you earn $60-$90 so that 20 minutes is $20-$30.

Honestly for me, irrespective of salary, a 20 minute savings would be worth at least $20 because I simply don't have much free time.

]{

Re:Cost and lack of extras the reason. (4, Funny)

Facetious (710885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842964)

I simply don't have much free time...
...says the guy posting to /. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Re:Cost and lack of extras the reason. (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841990)

I just got a Tivo HD that works with unbox from Amazon. I think they have three different tiers of rental, a 24 hour period, some other deal, and a full on download and keep version. They seem priced fairly well, but oddly some movies are rental only or buy only. You would think they would all follow some scheme. And they include variable pricing schemes (some rentals are $1, some are $4).

Online video distribution is slowly coming. They can't hold out forever. Music finally got here with itunes, video is coming. I just hope it is flexible enough to work with my devices. I don't want to have to buy everything from Apple...

BTW, the Tivo HD is pretty slick. Put Tivo Desktop on a PC and you can watch videos on the Tivo, so it acts like a HTPC with a nice working interface and stable hardware. I have a flaky HTPC with Beyond TV that makes Tivo Compatible files, so now it is like having four tuners and extra HD space.

Re:Cost and lack of extras the reason. (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842330)

They seem priced fairly well, but oddly some movies are rental only or buy only. You would think they would all follow some scheme.
Different movies come from different sources, which have different anxiety levels about digital media.

Re:Cost and lack of extras the reason. (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842456)

So you paid more money, for less content, that could be used in less places.

Well, it worked so well with the music industry with their DRM (Dumb Music Restriction) laden, lossy, buck per song downloads.

And I never bought any of them! Or rather, rented stuff. Why do they say "buy" when you pay money for something and you don't own it?

Re:Cost and lack of extras the reason. (1)

drjzzz (150299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842840)

Finally, a post that addresses the point of the article! All the bricks-and-mortar stuff is way off topic.

Netflix "watch instantly" is a killer competitor. There is no extra cost! Netflix subscribers are already comfortable managing their queues on line so moving to the viewer is a very low hurdle, something that cannot be said about WalMart. The viewer application is small and works great. One could quibble about resolution but for many things, especially TV shows, it's fine. Also, I wish Netflix would get a *nix application ASAP because their viewer app is the only reason I ever boot windows.

Disclaimer: I have no stock or other interest in Netflix except as a satisfied customer.

Re:Cost and lack of extras the reason. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21842848)

It's a re-run of early 2000. Replace movie with music and movie studio with record label. What you have is practically a dupe. It seems to me that the entertainment industry seriously lack visionaries in post P2P world coupled with high speed Internet connection. They go the same scripts over and over.

The Wall's falling over! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21841480)

All your Base are belong to us ..... except the one we sold to netflix...

Squished? (4, Insightful)

cheebie (459397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841504)

Do they actually think Netflix squished something run by Walmart?

That's like saying the local burger joint is going to crush McDonalds! Sure, Netflix is a big company, but they're nothing compared to the Wally-world behemoth.

Re:Squished? (4, Insightful)

timster (32400) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841582)

Sure they did. In this case, it wasn't even hard.

Sometimes a big company will try some new endeavor to much fanfare, but not bother to try very hard, assuming somehow that they will win because they are big. When that happens it's easy to take them out. Wal-Mart had no plan here; they just thought selling some videos at terms dictated by the studios might get them some cash. If they ran their retail stores that way, those would fail too, but they put serious effort into their retail stores.

Re:Squished? (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841664)

they just thought selling some videos at terms dictated by the studios might get them some cash. If they ran their retail stores that way, those would fail too, but they put serious effort into their retail stores.
Actually, I can't find the source off hand but I've heard that WalMart has quite a bit of sway with their suppliers and can dictate to them how much they want things to cost or even packaging. So, what you're saying is that they ran this download store the complete OPPOSITE as their retail stores and it failed.

Re:Squished? (1)

mcsqueak (1043736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842370)

Actually, I can't find the source off hand but I've heard that WalMart has quite a bit of sway with their suppliers and can dictate to them how much they want things to cost or even packaging.
Fast Company had a great article several years back which talks about those very issues. You can find it at http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html [fastcompany.com] . It's somewhat old, but I'm sure the information still holds true today.

Re:Squished? (2, Interesting)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842636)

I think it was "me-too" to copy Apple with iTunes... One of the things NBC cited was Walmart holding their DVD distribution channel "hostage" if the studios didn't do something about Apple raining on their in store sales parade of music and DVD sales. Walmart's business is selling commodity stuff, cheap. DVDs fit the bill perfectly as there is no variation (Spiderman 3 is the same anywhere) and Walmart has a better channel than a zillion little stores to control for the studios. Everybody wants to be part of Walmart's success.. big media, Microsoft, etc... it lets them get whatever they want to try out.

Re:Squished? (1)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842188)

Sometimes a big company will try some new endeavor to much fanfare, but not bother to try very hard, assuming somehow that they will win because they are big.
*cough*zune*cough*
Yeah yeah, someone is going to mod me troll or flamebait for this, but it was too perfect, I couldn't pass it up.

Re:Squished? (1, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841768)

Honestly, your analogy is horrid. Netflix is the leader in the rent movies by mail model, and Walmart isn't a leader in anything at present.

Walmart is large, but it is horribly inefficient, led by executives which willingly painted themselves into a corner, hated by pretty much all communities, and so this sort of thing is going to be more common in the future. That is unless they figure out how to run an efficient business. These sorts of ventures are more important to Walmart than they would be to a better run retailer.

And yes, I do know what I'm talking about, the business ran for a number of years based upon lower than normal supplier prices, with that evaporating, and some suppliers charging more because its walmart, they're in a bit of a bind. It gets worse that they also have to deal with being further away than other retailers, paying more for labor than most other retailers.

As their competition continues to catch up in their only area of strength, I would be surprised if their cap didn't start shrinking in the future.

Re:Squished? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21841938)

Wow what are you smoking?

Walmart isn't a leader in anything at present
Except you know sales of everything.

Walmart is large, but it is horribly inefficient
and that's how they drive down prices on everything they sell right?

Go back to your anti-Walmart propaganda site and get your head out of your ass.

Re:Squished? (4, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842068)

"Walmart is large, but it is horribly inefficient"

I hate my local Walmart as much as the next guy. And individual stores may be inefficient or suck. But the corporation as a whole is extremely efficient. I work in the trucking industry. Walmart is one of the companies that can afford to spend $1000 on an experimental MPG increaser. Whether it be APUs for the trucks, side skirts for the trailers, single tire rears, etc. If engine company X can provide .1 MPG extra per year on average, that's in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for Walmart.

They forced use of APUs on ALL trucks after doing a trial run. At a trucking conference they presented their savings broke even at 16 months. Now a ton of other companies are following their lead.

I thought I read on /. that they're going to RFID. As soon as Walmart forces RFID, maybe we'll see it everywhere. UPC is nice but old.

I don't have a lot of nice things to say about walmart, but that they're inefficient isn't one of them.

Re:Squished? (2, Funny)

markrages (310959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842360)

How does Apu [wikipedia.org] increase mileage?

Re:Squished? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842562)

Is an "APU" an Auxiliary power unit? [wikipedia.org] I googled but I'm not sure I hit the right APU.

If so, we called them "generators" in th eUSAF back in the seventies. But we called Phillips screwdrivers "crosshatches" too.

Re:Squished? (2, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842910)

Yes. Auxillary Power Units.

Depending on how vertically integrated the Chassis OEM is, it may be more than a generator. Sometimes the coolant is used as the heating fluid in the cab. Yes they are just generators mostly, but that's what the industry decided to call them. Because the 15L engine is the "Main Power Unit" this is the "Auxilary Power Unit"

California for 2009 has enacted STRICT Anti-Idling laws. Any more than 15 minutes idling and not in traffic, the engine must shut down. (Written into the engine software so the driver can't try to bypass it).

Back when fuel was cheap, 0.2 gallon per hour or what ever to idle was nothing. So no one cared. Drivers didn't care because the company was paying for the fuel. Now 1 or 2 gallons saved a day per 1000 trucks is big money.

Re:Squished? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842976)

Wal-Marts RFID attempt fails, gloriously.

BTW, you didn't give any examples of efficiency. Cost savings, yes, but not efficiency.

this is just wrong.....it can't stand (1)

tacokill (531275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842300)

Walmart is large, but it is horribly inefficient

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Walmart is one of the most efficient retail operators in the world. Bar none. Efficiency in the retail space equates to managing your inventory. And Walmart are MASTERS at that. Don't you read case studies on Walmart IT? While the company does have it's problems, IT, efficiency, and inventory management are not among them. Calling them inefficient is just....well....wrong.

Re:this is just wrong.....it can't stand (2, Interesting)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842722)

Walmart's problem is that "efficient" is not "unique". really look at the shelves and variety is gone.. they sell just 2 brands of most items, novelty items (toys, specific #2 name brands, back catalog of any type of media, etc) are the most generic version or scarce. They're good for staples (vegies, cereal, milk, bread), but poor for unique interesting things... the ones you get to mark up a bunch.. that's why Target is eating their lunch selling everything Walmart CAN'T because Walmart has beat up too many people and demands too much in their favor to be "efficient".

Re:Squished? (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842380)

and Walmart isn't a leader in anything at present.
Whether you love or hate Wal-Mart they are the world's largest single public corporation by revenue in the world according to Fortune so they are a leader in that sense.

Walmart is large, but it is horribly inefficient, led by executives which willingly painted themselves into a corner
Wal-Mart is large, but they are mostly fairly efficient, or at least more efficient than their competitors, or else they would never have become large (and they are certainly not shrinking although they have hit a few bumps in the road lately) and they are still quite profitable.

As their competition continues to catch up in their only area of strength
I think that it is true to say that Wal-Mart still has a fairly decent franchise on their management and supply chain organization competencies which cannot be simply copied without effort by their competitors. Their competitors will try of course (and that is a good thing for the consumers), but for now Wal-Mart does the direct from China to you thing substantially better than the competition on the retail level (Cosco beats them on wholesale vs SamsClub which is the Wal-Mart wholesale proxy).

DISCLAIMER: I do not work for Wal-Mart nor do I own their stock, I am merely presenting my own impressions based upon what I know of their business and the retail sales industry in general.

Re:Squished? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842426)

Walmart is inefficient? They run the biggest logistics operation in human history! With their paper-thin margins, they'd go out of business in a week if they didn't have their huge supply chain in total lock step. Your local underpaid clerk and manager may be clueless, but that's a superficial problem, representing Walmart's calculation that people will put up with had service if it saves them money.

Re:Squished? (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841772)

Well, even a dwarf can hurt a giant's little toe.

Re:Squished? (1)

LMacG (118321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841978)

Well, no, they don't. TFA makes mention of the fact that in 2005, Wal-Mart closed its DVD rental operation and handed off the customers to NetFlix. This download service is something completely different.

Another Mom and Pop store destroyed by Netflix (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842856)

I tell you, some days it seems like the little guy just can't win.

Wal-mart does what it does (4, Insightful)

beckerist (985855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841514)

Wal-mart is successful because it has a very efficient method of physical distribution. This has no baring on their success in digital distribution.

That is only half of what Wal-mart does (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841660)

Wal-mart is successful because it has a very efficient method of physical distribution.

That is only half of what Wal-mart does, they are also very good at negotiating low prices from suppliers.

Re:Wal-mart does what it does (2, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841732)

Don't forget the other key to Wal-mart success, all-in-one convenience vs. smaller retailers. For someone with kids in tow, being able to buy groceries and shoes and school supplies all in one place is going to be much easier. Another factor that has no baring on digital distribution. A harder to measure influence would be stigma. Wal-mart is anti-glamorous, Netflicks and iTunes are moderately cool.

Re:Wal-mart does what it does (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21842138)

Sorry this is bothering me. "bearing" not baring.

Re:Wal-mart does what it does (3, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841838)

Let's not forget that Wal Mart was the first to really push a large number of stores in medium-sized cities. My hometown (~10,000 people) has three other comparably sized cities within a 5 minute drive and then one much larger city within a 15 minute drive. All of the other chains were opening stores in the large city 15 minutes away when Wal-Mart opened one in my hometown and one in the larger city. Effectively, this made it so that one Sears had to compete with two Wal-Marts but, since each Wal-Mart targeted a smaller area, only one of the Wal-Marts competed with the Sears.

I read somewhere that 75% of all KMarts and Sears competed with a Wal-Mart, but only 33% of Wal-Marts competed with a Sears because of this strategy. When you can beat your competitors on price, location, and convenience, you're going to do well no matter what.

Re:Wal-mart does what it does (3, Funny)

LanMan04 (790429) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842106)

Your sig makes me want to kill you. :)

SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21841524)

_0_
\''\
'=o='
.|!|
.| |
online goatse service remains open [goatse.ch]

Nonono you got that wrong (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21841570)

You have to at least pretend to be on-topic.

Like this:

WALMART ONLINE MOVIES SUX0RZ

or if you liked the service

WALMART ONLINE MOVIES SHUTDOWN SUX0RS

See, that wasn't so hard, was it?

"Me Too" Products (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21841536)

You would think that business would learn from the mistakes of the dot-com stock crash.

It's Walmart (3, Insightful)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841558)

When the download becomes the same cost as buying/shipping physical media I think most Wal*Marx shoppers would rather have the physical media. Knowing a lot of people who WILLFULLY shop at their "super centers" and also Not so willfully work there, they are generally not the most technically inclined.

HP Dropping support sounds like a cop out... but a believable one

Technically inclined also prefer physical (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841758)

... they are generally not the most technically inclined.

When digital has no significant price advantage over physical the technically inclined may also prefer physical. Rip the DVD or CD at the fidelity you choose, re-rip in the future as technology improves, consider the disc a backup as well.

I'm also hesitant to consider someone who buys digital to be technically inclined. Most kiddies can manage that.

Re:Technically inclined also prefer physical (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841862)

I agree. I'm very technically inclined (spending at least 8, but usually 12+ hours on the internet per day) and I always buy the physical/digital combination when offered. the physical media is faster and more portable for now and is an easy backup. If offered a choice between the digital and the physical, I'll choose the physical.

Businesses are NOT swiss army knives (3, Interesting)

mcsqueak (1043736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841560)

Is this evidence of the strength of unified pricing in media downloads or just another company being squished by the giant Netflix & Apple?"

I think this is evidence of businesses trying to be too many things to too many people and slowly discovering that no, you can't be everything to everyone. "Jack of all trades, master of none" indeed.

Focus on a specific market and DO THAT WELL.

Re:Businesses are NOT swiss army knives (2, Interesting)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841604)

Exactly what I wanted to say, but you beat me to it. Wal-mart can only half-ass so many products before it finally catches up to them. This holds especially true with technical deals like this one (anyone can sell cheap Haynes underwear, but not everyone can sell digital content). You can't just throw money at something you have no expertise with and hope it makes money for you. You actually have to get involved and understand the technology that you are counting on to make you some money.

Re:Businesses are NOT swiss army knives (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841900)

anyone can sell cheap Haynes underwear, but not everyone can sell digital content
That's only true if you assume that you can get cheap Haynes underwear in the first place. The reverse is true (at least for my skill set) when you consider how easy it is to set up a website compared to how hard it is to get the physical store, negotiate price with the supplier, buy from the supplier, distribute to the individual locations and manage the employees that are required to sell those products. Wal-Mart is exceptionally skilled at all those things and their size has made them even more so.

Unfortunately, the only thing that they can leverage from their retail success is their name recognition. Those things that make me love Wal-Mart evaporate in the digital world: their lenient return policies, multiple locations and low prices are all nullified by the fact that it's not a physical medium.

Re:Businesses are NOT swiss army knives (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841960)

The reverse is true (at least for my skill set)
Well stated post. The quoted part of your response points to why Wal-mart failed at the digital downloads. Their skill set is in physical supply chains, like you stated. They are a fish out of water when it comes to exploring other delivery methods.

Re:Businesses are NOT swiss army knives (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841628)

What? You're thinking of small business. Giant corps like Wal-mart have capital specifically set aside to try new things like this. Sure, this one failed, but others probably succeeded (for instance, they sell gas now at a lot of them, and that's a success).

The only reason that's a rule for small business is because it's easy to get ahead of yourself and waste away your time and money trying to do too much. If you're limited and don't have the money and man power to specifically go after something, then don't do it. But if you're wal-mart, you don't have those limitations now do you?

Re:Businesses are NOT swiss army knives (1)

mcsqueak (1043736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841730)

I'll agree with you to an extent. As another poster said, they have the physical distribution model down pat. When I was getting my marketing degree several of my professors held up their supply chain management system as the best in the industry (which it is, despite my dislike for Wal-Mart on a personal level).

Gasoline is a physical good which can fit into their existing supply chain model. Plus, it has the added advantage of being something people need when they happen to already be at their stores ("shoot, I need to fill my car up.. HEY, Wal-Mart has a gas station now, great!"). I feel the online download market is a completely different beast which Wal-Mart will never get right unless they out-and-out buy a company, such as Netflix, to do it for them. It doesn't fit well into their existing business model, IMHO.

Re:Businesses are NOT swiss army knives (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842052)

I think you're thinking of the companies in question too much like products with certain capabilities. There is no Netflix model robot who happens to be really good and doing online stuff against the Wal-mart model robot with a different skill set.

Both these companies are indeed good at different things, but that's only because of their employees and management. Shifting one or both of them can yield the same expertise as another company.

Put another way: with the right people Wal-mart certainly COULD make a competitive downloadable content service. The fact that it's Wal-mart behind it is irrelevant, because with a corporation that big the download part of "Wal-mart" isn't the same group as the physical "Wal-mart".

Re:Businesses are NOT swiss army knives (1)

mcsqueak (1043736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842226)

Indeed, they COULD hire the management and employees to do such things. But will they? I don't think so. To me, the fact that this failed because Wal-Mart was behind it is totally relevant, because it seems that whenever I read about Wal-Mart's management this is exactly the kind of thing they do.

Rather than hire the talent and devote the resources to doing it in-house (the expensive and hard way) they outsourced it to HP (the easier and cheaper way). This totally fits into everything I have ever read about their management style. Not to say it couldn't change once some of the old guard retires/dies off and younger managers with potentially different styles come into play. However, I think shifting the style that a company runs in (and in Wal-Mart's case, the style that has made it the huge company it is today) is a lot easier said than done.

Re:Businesses are NOT swiss army knives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21841724)

Various conglomerates seem to be quite successful, and I believe there is also evidence that companies can successfully penetrate multiple markets. The Xbox 360 seems fairly successful, for example.

Re:Businesses are NOT swiss army knives (1)

capitalistnihilist (892686) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842216)

While I agree with the "jack of all trades, master of none" cliche you have invoked, I'd have to say that if any company could prove you wrong, it would most certainly be Wal-Mart. Also, for the majority of its customers, I highly doubt that "mastery" is required. The average Wal-Mart shopper has got along just fine with many a crappy product/service for years so I doubt Wal-Mart will have to master anything else it wishes to push on its customer-base.

Outside the Core Competency (3, Insightful)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841656)

While hindsight is 20/20... this is a classic example of an "Old media" company failing to adapt to the "New Media" because they didn't have any expertise in the current technology.

Wal-Mart's core competency is managing their supply chain. They make money by being the most efficient supplier of products that are in local demand. They operate their integrated technological systems marvelously. They don't know jack-shit about the internet and "download-able content". They should partner with Amazon to run their webpage... though that would probably start to enter into an anti-trust area.

Re:Outside the Core Competency (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842664)

Since as another poster pointed out, the download movies cost twenty bucks vs the DVD of $5 to $15, has DRM, and doesn't have any of the DVD's extras I'd say it was a case of someone putting a retard somewhere in management. I mean come on, if brains were dynamite whoever thought up that harebrained scheme wouldn't have enough to blow his nose.

While hindsight is 20/20
Gee I wish I hadn't called that policeman dirty names...

Re:Outside the Core Competency (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842844)

While hindsight is 20/20

Gee I wish I hadn't called that policeman dirty names...

I was implying that it doesn't do any good to say that this was a bad idea for them after the failure occurred. I'm not sure if you took my meaning, but I agree that cops get mad when you do anything to question their authority, such as name calling or (my favorite) urinating on their squad car in the donut shop parking lot.

Too many restrictions... (2, Insightful)

log1385 (1199377) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841672)

Wal-Mart put some annoying restrictions on their movies. Here's a quote from their FAQ:

Due to licensing restrictions, you cannot copy or transfer your video files and play them on a different computer.
What if I want to watch movies on my laptop and my desktop? What if I decide to buy a new computer and can't watch my movies anymore? Wal-Mart should realize that people can just download a movie via P2P and not have to deal with any restrictions like this. I for one and much more willing to pay money for media if I can do whatever I want with it.

Re:Too many restrictions... (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841874)

I think this is more of a restriction being forwarded from the studios.

The real reason Wal*Mart got out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21841752)

They eventually realized that in the case of internet downloads, importing from China does not help them undercut their competitors.

Re:The real reason Wal*Mart got out (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842132)

Really?

I would think they could save a lot using Chinese distributors and not he studios to get their files.

All of Wal-Mart's eggs were in HP's basket (3, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841766)

Is this evidence of the strength of unified pricing in media downloads or just another company being squished by the giant Netflix & Apple?
If you believe Wal-Mart's explanation, it sounds like this is caused by relying on single source software maintenance. Hey, software users: GPL is for you. It's not a hacker thing.

It's neither (1)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841792)

It's just a dumb business plan.

Trying to do a downloadable media store without taking the iPod into account is like trying to market an office productivity suite that doesn't read/write MS Office docs: You're doomed to failure from the start.

If (and this is a BIG if) the movie studios wake up to the benefits of DRM-free downloads like some record labels have, the big winner here could be Amazon.com. They're uniquely positioned to equal, if not better the success that Apple has had. They're platform agnostic (for music, at least), , are known and trusted brand, have a working system for movies in place already (I've found that downloading those free Bugs Bunny cartoons to my TiVo was VERY easy), and have as much juice with the studios as Wal-Mart does.

Re:It's neither (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842234)

Perhaps, but the studios will be reluctant, just as the music labels were reluctant and finally dragged kicking and screaming by Apple into the download market, to deal with either Amazon or Wal-Mart (and Wal-Mart especially so) because they know that both retailers will push them hard on price in order to access their distribution channels and that would accelerate the erosion of their current pricing power which is already being squeezed by cutthroat competition between the likes of Amazon, Cosco, and Wal-Mart in the packaged for sale DVD market and Netflix in the DVD rental market. To the studios, DRM is like the mirage always just over the horizon, with promises of wealth without compromises and they will be reluctant to give up that hope, even though it is almost certainly in their long-term best interests to do so.

No contract with HP? (3, Insightful)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841802)

Why didn't Walmart, of all companies, get a contract that insured that HP couldn't bail on them?

Probably had code escrow but... (3, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842378)

You can't have a contract that compels another company to do something forever, that's just not practical.

I would bet they did have a code escrow agreement - in the event HP decided to back out of doing the software (which they did) WalMart gets access and use of all the HP source.

The fact that Wal-Mart is shutting down operations shows exactly what use code escrow is - jack and squat. What is WalMart going to do with a bunch of hacked together HP code, without any of the people who worked on it?

Plus in general a problem with code escrow is that you can't look at the source before you take it over to see how feasible that proposition really is.

My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my software.. (2, Interesting)

Gavin Scott (15916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841816)

In a statement, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amy Collella said the company closed the store after Hewlett-Packard Co., which provided the software running the site, ''made a business decision to discontinue its video download-only merchant store service.''

Walmart fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never buy any kind of application software from Hewlett-Packard! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha...

Seriously, HP has the worst cace of attention deficit disorder of any company I've ever seen. I've spent 25 years watching them announce "the next big thing" only to completely forget about it a year later after having sold it to three big customers (who are then completely screwed of course). Anyone who buys a proprietary solution from them at this point deserves what they get.

G.

Re:My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my softwar (1)

acvh (120205) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841894)

you made me think of my favorite piece of HP software - New Wave. I was even a New Wave "evangelist" for a while, trying to sell it to corporate users. I even still use my New Wave mousepad.

DRM is what kills it for me. (3, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841918)

I refuse to download anything that has DRM on it. Especially considering that right *now* I buy my DVD's through retail channels and rip them myself (my country doesn't have DMCA idiocy preventing that) to the format of my choice. And when I switch around operating systems I don't fall into the trap of "sorry you're unsupported". Buying retail and ripping myself is what suits me best right now. Maybe when online retailers realize that DRM actually does nothing to stop piracy and only pisses off the people who actually do buy the product they'll drop it. And when/if they do drop DRM then I'll buy online instead of retail.

Re:DRM is what kills it for me. (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841980)

I get that DRM is bad for ownership, but how is DRM relevant at all if I'm RENTING a movie to watch one time. I'm not paying for the right to own it, I'm paying to rent it. I don't think I should be allowed to keep a copy on my video iPod, Zune, VCR, computer, DVR or any other device. This is where the anti-drm crowd starts to lose me.

Re:DRM is what kills it for me. (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842014)

Oops, sorry, I thought I was in the Apple + 21st Century Fox to offer movie rentals thread...

Re:DRM is what kills it for me. (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842162)

I hardly ever rent movies, what I'm talking about is buying them. With my computer hooked up to my big-screen tv it makes it a very nice experience to have a movie "jukebox" at my disposal. And I don't want to re-buy them just because I've found a better operating system for my home-theatre-PC. DRM in the buying-context is an extra risk - what about 5 years from now, 10?. Newer versions of even the same operating system may not support the old-and-clunkly DRM systems of today and that leads right back to having to re-buy what you've already bought. And I'm not going to do that.

Re:DRM is what kills it for me. (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842304)

But people rebuy stuff all the time. I think I own the Scorpions, Love at First Sting, in album, cassette, CD AND iTunes variations. If Apple went bankrupt, and iPods stopped working, I'd buy it again to work with the next player's format.

Technology changes, media formats change, which sucks, but I'm the sucker who keeps buying the newest format. I think the trick is to try and predict which format will last the longest before the next change. Ideally, your vision would be nice, to have completely system-agnostic media files, but I just don't see it happening (as hard as we all lobby for it to happen). But then again, we are on slashdot, so we are nerds, and we'll always know (or be) that guy who figures out how to bypass DRM for our player-specific needs.

Re:DRM is what kills it for me. (1)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842436)

The current administration is confused between what is right and what is legal.
Seems to me that they've adopted the strategy of just avoiding both at all costs.

Re:DRM is what kills it for me. (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842516)

If it plays where you want it to play, fair enough. With a rental DVD, I can pop it in my Linux machine and play it but with any kind of DRM I can't. Yes, I know I'm not supposed to be able to do it on Linux either but when you're comparing DRM vs reality instead of DRM vs should-be the DRM is limiting the watching too. I honestly don't care because I don't rent tho.

Alternatives... (1)

yddod (778690) | more than 6 years ago | (#21841962)

As interesting as these movie download services are, it seems as though most have had trouble picking up enough steam to stay around. I run a few swapping sites and one them is specially for DVDs. (swapadvd.com [swapadvd.com] - Shamless plug) There are other sites that compete in this same space but with slightly different models, peerflix.com, titletrader.com and switchdiscs.com. I would love to hear what the Slashdot crowd thinks about the swapping of media, books [paperbackswap.com] , CDs [swapacd.com] and DVDs [swapadvd.com] .

Sales force (2, Interesting)

abes (82351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842010)

Someone else pointed out that part of the issue is that Walmart sells DVDs already, and thus they were competing with themselves. I suspect they started the digital distribution because they realized long-term DVDs are dead. Even if a winner is ever found for Blu-Ray or HD-DVD, it might be too late now. Not that people won't buy them, but for most movies digital distribution seems likely to become the preferred method.

However, short-term, DVD is still king. So do they cut into their current sales for an uncertain future (can they really win against the other big-players? .. it's certainly out of their area of expertise), or do they go ahead with their current sales with the knowledge that they'll lose out later on? One thing to consider, their primary market is not exactly tech-savvy, and therefore will likely continue with DVDs for the next 10-15 years.

Another possible explanation, is perhaps they realized getting into variable-pricing was a mistake. If history gives us any lessons, the media companies are greedy bastards. They don't seem to give much thought into long-term planning. This is one case where the intelligence of Apple really comes through. They realized that unless they could control the prices, companies would try to charge more money than the physical media costs. I suspect after some grace period, in order to save face, NBC will come back to iTunes.

Re:Sales force (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842036)

I suspect after some grace period, in order to save face, NBC will come back to iTunes.
Let's hope. Their web episode player is the worst of the tv channels. The quality is so bad (frame rates, download speed, video quality) that they are practically unwatchable. I don't know how they managed to muck up the web player, because ABC's player is pretty nice.

Re:Sales force (1)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842530)

Someone else pointed out that part of the issue is that Walmart sells DVDs already, and thus they were competing with themselves.

Are you serious? Digital Downloads don't compete with DVDs, these are two very different customers. One uses a DVD player for entertainment the other uses their computer. Rare is it indeed, when I stick a DVD in my computer that was not made by me. I do however watch a crapload of Movies and Videos. Even Rarer is my wife using the computer to watch something instead of popping a DVD into the box under the TV.

Re:Sales force (1)

abes (82351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842708)

Hmm.. let's see, you can hook up an XBox to TV. At least on the XBox you can download movies and TV shows and watch them. You can route your computer's contents to your TV with products such as the AppleTV (and its competitors). At least in NYC, many people don't have room for a full blown TV, so the computer monitor will often double as the TV. Indeed, while I do own a TV, I still watch a lot of TV shows on it (e.g. The Daily Show and Heroes).

Perhaps your in your personal life there is a clear separation, but I don't think it's safe to assume that holds true for everyone. The difference between the TV and computer are diminishing, and many technology companies are working actively to make that difference even smaller.

Besides which, think about it, the people who download the digital content are watching movies on their computer (which is against your point). They could have instead bought the DVD which would also play on any computer. Thus the two are indeed in competition. Name an instance where someone would both do the digital download and buy the DVD.

Bad Summary (1)

LMacG (118321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842026)

Yeah, I know, welcome to /. and all that.

The line in TFA about turning over the rental business to Netflix relates to something that happened in 2005. Nothing to do with a download service at all. No squishing involved, on anybody's part.

letting the studios set the variable pricing.... (2, Insightful)

pxuongl (758399) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842208)

Wal-Mart initially offered films from $12.88 to $19.88 and individual TV episodes for $1.96 -- 4 cents less than the iTunes store. Wal-Mart's online store sold older titles starting at $7.50, compared with the $9.99 charged by iTunes.

Many studios have resisted signing deals with iTunes in part because of Apple's desire to sell movies at one price. Studios prefer variable pricing such as Wal-Mart offered.


what's to note here is that films were offered between $13 and $20 a pop, with older titles at $7.50. When will it occur to studios, in regards to how variable pricing won't work, that if there is no demand for an "older title," then there will be no purchases, even if you sold them at a buck a pop.

the ones that are in demand, that people want to buy, are being sold at or above the price of a regular dvd! sounds more like the studios are trying to make a download service fail.

Unified pricing is short sighted. (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842210)

I can't speak for this service but it irks me to find stuff on iTunes (mostly classical, in my experience) that I can buy for cheaper at Borders on CD than I can from the iTunes store.

And I have a feeling with CD sales on the decline we're going to see more of the same. Especially compilations that will come in under the 10 USD watermark that will offer more than enough tracks to make it worth getting tracks you don't like for the ones that you do.

But they sure do take returns! (1)

Bobb Sledd (307434) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842496)

I know there is a lot of hatred for Wal-Mart. I don't like them and I don't like going there either. But, let me tell you something... I will continue to shop there because their returns policy is crazy-in-my-favor. I have taken back things that were bought well over a year ago. I have taken things back with no receipt, no tags, and they still gave me back what I *said* I paid. I think I have even taken back things that I purchased at another store. As long as Wal-Mart carries it? I seem to get the money back.

Now try that with Office Max or Office Depot. I have purchased things that didn't work out and when I went to return them, found they only had a 30-day policy -- even with a receipt. WTF?

Until someone has returns policies like Wal-Mart... I'll keep going because I know I can take it back.

Re:But they sure do take returns! (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21842904)

"I will continue to shop there because their returns policy is crazy-in-my-favor."
Thanks for letting us know your price for doing something you don't like.

"think I have even taken back things that I purchased at another store."
Ah, you lie and commit fraud, that explains it.
You sir,are a Dick, and the reason places like wal-mart stop being customer friendly.
You, and people like you, are the knife that is killing 'The Customer is always right.' policy.

Dick.

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