Why Wal-Mart’s video downloading won’t work

Turns out Wal-Mart’s deal to allow people to download digital copies of Superman Returns was just a trial balloon. The retailer has now announced a full-service movie download service beginning in 2007.

I think, at least in Wal-Mart’s case, Scott says it exactly right. The retailer has, with their Superman Returns deal, now set a price-point of between $1.97 and $3.97 in the minds of customers. Granted, that’s with the purchase of a physical DVD, but it’s out there now that Wal-Mart charges less than $4 for video downloads. And then there’s the separate issue of those prices not being nearly enough to cover the technical support that customers are going to expect when things don’t go quite right. And what’s their refund policy if the file is wonky? And do they have a plan for dealing with questions about the downloads in-store?

I’ll say it again. I want to be able to buy a copy of a movie that I can watch anywhere. I don’t have to register the number of players I’m going to use when I buy a DVD, why am I so limited in my options when it comes to downloads? I want to buy the license to watch a movie where and when I please and transfer the file at will as long as it respects copyright laws.

By the way, Blockbuster also announced they would “may” be introducing a video download service next year. Just to be on the safe side I’d recommend against holding my breath on this one.