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Wal-Mart's Disc Conversion: Is It Worth It?

Stocks in this article: WMT NFLX DIS

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Last week Wal-Mart (WMT) unveiled a service that allows people to haul in their old DVDs or Blu-ray discs and get an additional digital copy they can stream via select TVs and players -- but the service won't come cheap. If you have a DVD you want to watch in standard definition or a Blu-ray you want to watch in high definition, it will cost you $2 a disc. If you bring in a regular DVD but want your digital copy to play in high definition, that upgrade will cost you $5.

So is the service worth the price? It depends on your situation. Here are a few criteria you should meet before you take your discs to Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart wants you to pay up to $5 for digital copies of your DVDs, meaning you can stream them from its Vudu service. For some, this is worth the price.

You don't have Netflix.
This service will mainly be of interest to people with old DVDs that they want to bring into the digital age. DVD sales have declined in recent years, so it stands to reason most DVD collections consist primarily of older discs that people bought before switching over to digital distribution. Plus, many newer discs come with a code that allows you to download the digital copy of the movie anyway.

Why does this matter? Well, many of those older movies are probably on Netflix (NFLX) anyway, so if you have an account, you shouldn't bother paying $2 and making a trip to Wal-Mart to convert a disc that you can already watch online.

You have a Vudu-compatible device.
The converted movies will be viewable via Wal-Mart's movie-rental service, Vudu, which has no monthly fees but charges for rentals . (In fact, Wal-Mart isn't actually converting your disc, but simply authenticating that you own it and giving you the ability to stream it digitally through Vudu's library.) But that means you'll want to make sure that whatever devices you use to watch streaming movies are actually compatible with that service. The good news is that the list is long and growing -- plenty of Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players support the service, as do video game systems such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Of course, those are all home-based devices, and if you're at home you can just as easily watch your DVDs anyway (unless, of course, you're using the service to convert your DVDs to high definition). Portable options are more limited -- in addition to being able to use your laptop, you can also watch the movies on your iPad, but that's about it. And keep in mind that you'll need to have Internet access to watch the movies from the cloud, as the program does not allow you to download a copy of the movie to your computer or iPad. Finally, even if you do have a strong Internet connection on your iPad, you'll only be able to stream standard-definition content to it -- a Wal-Mart representative explains that the studios do not allow Vudu to stream HD content to portable devices.

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