Walmart, studios launch 'Disc-to-Digital'

Got a big stack of videodisc-based movies and TV shows you wish you could watch, instantaneously,  on your laptop, mobile phone  or TV without actually having the disc stuffed into the device?
Walmart and Hollywood movie studios are about to make that vision real.

The concept is called "Disc-to-Digital" and was announced yesterday by the retail giant  and five major Hollywood studios - Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.

Here's how it'll work, starting April 16. You take the discs into a Walmart and look for the special D-to-D kiosk. First the staffer will sign you up for an account with Vudu, the Walmart-owned movie streaming site currently available on "50 million TV sets and Blu-ray players, video game consoles, tablets and mobile phones," said  company exec John Aden.  Then hand over $2 a piece for each  DVD or Blu-ray you'd like to access from that Vudu site in equal streaming quality. Want to upgrade a standard definition DVD to enjoy high def playback through Vudu? That'll cost $5 a pop. (You get the disc back, btw.)

The process of registering a disc will "take seconds," said our man in Hollywood David Bishop, once a Camden Catholic High and St. Joe's student, and now chief executive of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. And it's designed to give aid and comfort to people for whom  concepts like "cloud-based entertainment" make their eyes glaze over.  

In fact, Disc-to-Digital is part of a larger Hollywood studio initiative called UltraViolet, likewise designed to give "added value" to consumers and keep them buying hard copies of movies. (While still quite robust, the video disc biz slipped about ten percent last year.)  UltraViolet invites buyers of select titles (identifiable with a UV sticker) to register the purchase on line and then share the movie  in streaming fashion among six family members and friends all registered on the same  account. UV also allows a buyer to download and carry the movie around permanently installed on one device. 

 "Disc-to-Digital uses the same backbone, the same verification system as UV," explained  Bishop, "but this (DtoD) is easier to comprehend and execute in a retail setting. And in time, we're hoping  the Walmart staff will also be able to lead its customers through the UV sign-up and registration process."

Samsung recently previewed a Blu-Ray player that will offer built-in capacity for Disc-to-Digital file conversion transactions,   though at first that operation will work only with conventional DVDs. Bishop couldn't explain the limitation  "because Samsung doesn't talk to Sony."   But  he added that "the Sony PlayStation 3 and other devices can and will perform the same functions in the near future."