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Walmart Supports UltraViolet With ‘Disc-to-Digital’ Service (Updated)

Retailer will begin offering the cloud-based system via Vudu

(Updated, 1:48 p.m.)

Walmart gave UltraViolet a shot in the arm on Tuesday, all while barely mentioning it by name. 

The retailer announced that it will begin offering a cloud-based video system to its customers via its online movie service Vudu.

However, noticeably absent in its presentation to media on Tuesday at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles was explicit mention of UltraViolet.

Instead, Walmart kept referencing the service as "disc to digital," as a way to familiarize customers with the concept of storing and accessing their movies digitally. "Disc to digital" will be compatible with Ultraviolet and will use the technology developed as part of the service. 

Walmart executives were concerned that UltraViolet was too esoteric a concept to entice customers, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation. 

In a release touting the launch of its new service, Walmart referenced UltraViolet as being in its beta phase. 

"Digital movies are not replacing physical DVDs," John Aden, Walmart's executive vice president for general merchandising, said in his remarks to media. "Instead we see digital movies as a complement to physical DVDs."

"Only Walmart with our unique combination of stores and digital assets can bring a service like this to life," he added. 

Backed by five major studios — Warner Bros., Sony, Fox, Universal and Paramount — UltraViolet was once hailed as a potential savior to the sagging home entertainment business.

Also read: UltraViolet Backers Get Ready to Make More Noise in 2012

It allows people to store the movies they buy in a digital cloud and stream or download the films to iPads, Androids, iPhones and other mobile devices. Its boosters hailed it as a way to encourage customers to buy movies rather than rent or stream them from services such as Netflix. 

However, consumers have been slow to embrace UltraViolet. In January, UltraViolet's backers announced that 750,000 UltraViolet accounts had been set up, short of some analysts' projections. That number came without the promotional and institutional heft of a major retailer.

Also read: Latest Streaming Challenger to Netflix: Walmart

Now, Walmart customers will not only be able to set up accounts through the store, they will also be able to add their existing DVD and Blu-ray collections to the cloud. Walmart said it will convert standard DVD and Blu-ray discs for a $2 fee and will upgrade those DVDs to high-definition for a $5 charge.

The new service will be available in 3,500 stores starting in April. 

Walmart also plans to educate consumers with a multi-month campaign that will feature in-store displays and retail events.