Here’s one for the ‘That’s Really Stupid’ category: Walmart-owned VUDU is going to sell “digital movie cards” for the film Battle: Los Angeles. The cards will available for purchase at Wal-mart stores, and will be priced at $14.96. The digital movie cards are then redeemable, online, for an SD digital copy of the film. 

What the Flip is that all about? Why would you want to go to a brick-and-mortar shop to get a card that gives you access to a digital copy, pay for it with your debit/credit card and then haul it all the way back to your house just so you can type in a, most likely, 16-digit code to get access to the movie when you could just pay online and have access without the wasted gasoline, time and 16-digit code entry?

Here’s a quote:

Digital movie cards allow us to take digital transactions into high-traffic, brick-and-mortar retail environments like Walmart, and provide a bridge from the DVD aisle into the digital age.  –John Calkins, EVP of global digital and commercial innovation with SPHE

Somehow, they missed the fact that digital age means digital transaction and that the point of streaming services like Netflix and Wal-Mart’s own rip-off version of the same service, VUDU, is that we don’t need to go anywhere to get the content.

Our goal is not only to educate off-line consumers about the digital films and services available to them, but also to increase the convenience of buying and gifting digital content.

Perhaps if you teamed up with the streaming video industry in a more consumer-friendly fashion like say, by offering your content on a wide range of services for reasonable prices, you might do better in that regard.

Speaking of other services

The cards will be priced at $14.96 while DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the film will be an exorbitant $28.95 and $38.96.

Holy Crap! $30 for a DVD movie? Did you know that at you can get it for $16.99 (though they say list is $28.95), the Blu-Ray there has two version $17.99 (AC3 version) and $24.99 all still cheaper than Wal-Mart?

Even Amazon has a Two-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo for $24.99…

Now you can see why I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart in the first place. Well, it’s more about certain business practices and not about pricing, but that just reinforces the bad taste the mere mention of them leaves behind.

So I headed over to to check in on Battle: Los Angeles over there. You can buy a copy for $12.99 and it’s the same Standard Definition version of the film that the $14.96 card would get you through Wal-mart and VUDU. Essentially, you’re paying $2 to have a physical card, which you will then probably throw away, which will then end up in a local landfill and create more environmental strain. Plus, there’s that 16-digit code (my guess) that will also have to be typed into a connected device.

Doesn’t it sound easier to just buy online and not bother with all of that? I wonder if the cards will be DVD-sized abominations that waste even more resources? After all, they’re trying to “provide a bridge from the DVD aisle into the digital age,” so they should be in a familiar shape and size, right? Maybe they could make them out of Styrofoam, you know, to maximize negative impact on the environment, when we all throw them away or they get tossed because no one buys them.

A Smarter Move Would have been…

What I think would have been far, far smarter plan–and one I think that many places should implement–would be to let consumers buy at retail and have it auto-credited to your digital account.

Here’s what I’m talking about and it would really benefit those without credit cards or who are leery of using them online.

  1. Go to physical retailer
  2. Walk up to kiosk that logs you into your online movie account
  3. Choose films you want to add to your collection
  4. Print out receipt
  5. Pay at cashier (which tells system that they were paid for and access is given)
  6. Go home and watch at leisure

Sure, it’s still a bunch more steps than paying online, but it would allow for cash to be used for those without a card of some type. This would have worked just fine for VUDU since they’re owned by Wal-Mart and would be a fantastic idea for Best But and Cinema Now.

Hell, even other places might get in on it. The kiosks could serve multiple streaming services like Ultraviolet, Disneymovies, whatever, all in one. Pick your service, login and get your films.

In fact, there is a DVD rental place that is very much like that in the Czech Republic. You walk in, they have a kiosk, no endless aisles of empty DVD cases, choose what you want, go to cashier and get your rentals. This still gives a physicality to the digital transaction, which is really what these movie cards are all about, and the added benefit of being able to use cash.

The kiosks could also be used to just put credit on your account. Go to kiosk, choose increment $10/20/50/100 and drop the cash on the cashier and it shows up in your account.

That would also work well for video game networks like Xbox LIVE and Playstation Network. Damn, I should have tried to do this as a business instead of telling you all about it!