Netflix Defectors: Wal-Mart Wants You

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – When Netflix raised its prices two weeks ago, many users swore to leave the subscription movie rental service for one of the many alternatives on the market. Now, the nation’s largest retailer is making a play for those disaffected customers.

Wal-Mart today integrated the Vudu video-on-demand service onto its website, Walmart.com. Vudu originally offered its service through its own set-top boxes, which it eventually phased out in favor of offering the service through internet-enabled TVs and the PlayStation 3 game console. Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT) acquired the company last year and integrate the service into its retail site to make it easy for Wal-Mart shoppers to find and rent movies. 

So how does Vudu stack up when compared to Netflix and its competitors?

Unlike Netflix, Vudu does not offer a monthly subscription, instead sticking with traditional per-title rentals. Like Blockbuster On Demand, it touts the fact that it offers movies for rental the day they come out on DVD, something Netflix and Redbox can’t claim. Most titles can be rented for 24 hours at a cost of $3.99; once purchased, they can be viewed on a computer or streamed via a PlayStation 3 or compatible TV. It’s worth noting, though, that the high-quality versions of new releases may cost more. For instance, if you want True Grit, it will cost you $3.99 for a standard-definition rental, $4.99 for a 720p HD rental or $5.99 for a full-HD 1080p rental.

In addition to these new releases, Vudu also offers a variety of “$2/2 Night” rentals, though these tend to be for less popular titles. And every Friday the service will offer one movie for a 99-cent rental; this week it’s the critically acclaimed drama Blue Valentine, and you can go to Wal-Mart’s Facebook page to vote for next week’s offering. 

The verdict? As with Blockbuster On Demand, this is a good service if you’re only an occasional movie renter and place a high value on being able to stream new releases. We’d recommend checking out the 99-cent title on a weekly basis, as it looks like there will be some good movies on offer in the future.

If on the other hand you prefer the idea of unlimited rentals and don’t mind Netflix’s diminished selection and rising prices, you probably won’t find much in Wal-Mart’s new service.

Vudu isn’t the only alternative to Netflix. Check out some of the other top video-on-demand services.

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