New York: The world`s largest retailer on Tuesday started streaming many movies the same day they come out on DVD, in a second bid for a share of popular movie rental and streaming website Netflix Inc.`s business and just two weeks after Netflix announced new price increases.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. bought video-streaming service Vudu.com 18 months ago and now offers 20,000 titles that can be viewed on almost any device with Internet access, from computers to televisions to Sony`s PlayStation3 and other Blu-Ray disc players.
Movies are available at Walmart.com to rent for $1 to $5.99 or to purchase for $4.99 and up. Wal-Mart is not offering subscriptions, making its service more similar to Apple Inc.`s iTunes, which charges $3.99 to rent newly released movies and $14.99 to buy a movie.
In addition to Netflix, another competitor streaming movies and TV shows by subscription is Hulu.com, which now offers a premium service for $7.99 a month with more back-season shows and more movies. Without a subscription, Hulu viewers can watch shows and movies free in exchange for watching advertising.
The movie offering fits with the Wal-Mart website`s strategy of offering a "seamless continuous shopping service," said Steve Nave, senior vice president and general manager of Walmart.com.
Wal-Mart`s announcement comes on the heels of Netflix saying it will raise rates and charge separately for streaming and rental DVDs. Its second price hike in eight months, Netflix`s planned increases could amount to 60 percent for existing customers, starting Sept. 1. New subscribers have to pay the new prices immediately.
Netflix plans to charge $16 a month for services that used to cost $10 a month when bundled together, for example. It`s still changing $8 a month for streaming, which it launched late last year. But instead of charging $2 more for a plan that includes one DVD at a time by mail, the company will charge $8 and up for DVD plans.
Customers have taken to social media sites Facebook and Twitter to vent their anger over Netflix`s increases, but executives said they anticipated the reaction. The company`s willingness to risk alienating subscribers signals it needs more revenue to cover rising costs.
Through June, Netflix had 24.6 million subscribers in the US
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., has tested the movie-rental waters before. It previously offered a DVD-by-mail service that cost $12.97 per month for two titles and $17.36 per month for three titles. But it ceded that program to Netflix in May 2005, letting customers continue their subscriptions with Los Gatos, Calif.-based Netflix without a rate hike. Apple is based in Cupertino, Calif.