Wal-Mart has canceled its online video download service, blaming HP for discontinuing the technology behind it. What a lame excuse. If the Wal-Mart video store was doing well, do you think HP would yank the engine powering it?
The reality is that few people used it. Those who did were not impressed. On paper, the service sounded great. All the major movie studios participated. New releases cost up to $20, and older films sold for as much as $10. TV shows were available the day after they aired for $2. Wal-Mart claimed it would only take 45 minutes to download a "near-DVD" video using a high-speed connection.
So why didn't it work? According to HP, the market for paid video downloads didn't perform as well as it had expected. I think Wal-Mart is having a tough time figuring out its online strategy. Does anyone remember "The Hub," the retailer's attempt at social networking? Shut down after 10 weeks, the site was supposed to be a place where teens could upload photos and videos and talk about Wal-Mart products.
Give the company kudos for at least trying to experiment. But Wal-Mart's brick-and-mortar brand simply overpowers its online identity. I think of Wal-Mart's site as the place to buy the same inexpensive items its stores sell. You go in, find what you need and get out -- just like you would in an actual Wal-Mart. It's not a place to linger, download videos or chat with your friends.
As I look at the site today, I see that Wal-Mart is promoting price rollbacks, low-calorie water and products to help you quit smoking. That's the kind of stuff people visit the site for -- not near-DVD video downloading.