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Lunchtime Briefing: What's Up Wal-Mart's Sleeve?

Frank Ahrens

Walmart.com, the online component of the ubiquitous big-box store, has scheduled a live Webcast today at 11:30 a.m. EDT.

The press release reads: "Walmart.com to Change the Way Millions of Customers Shop the Online Store of the World's Largest Retailer."

I'll be listening in and trying to ask a couple of questions. But it may be tough--the Webcast is only 30 minutes. "So get your questions in early!" the Walmart.com p.r. woman chirped last week.

Grrr.

For all its successes, Wal-Mart has been so far unable to really crack the online retailing space. They've got bricks-and-mortar in their DNA, a Hollywood source told me last week.

And Hollywood is a key issue: It was price objections from Wal-Mart--and Target and other big-boxers--that kept most of the Hollywood studios from signing on to the launch of Apple's new video download service rolled out last month.

Apple leader Steve Jobs could only coax Disney aboard--and that's probably because he sits on the Disney board. The other studios likely will join in, but they could not work out a pricing arrangement satisfactory to Wal-Mart.

See, Wal-Mart is the biggest customer of Hollywood when it comes to buying DVDs. Wal-Mart uses them as a loss-leader to get folks in the door and hopefully to buy more expensive items. But if Steve Jobs is selling movies online cheaper than people can buy the DVDs in Wal-Marts, Wal-Mart has a concern.

Complicating the matter is that Wal-Mart has acknowledged that it is considering launching its own video-download service. My Hollywood sources think that's at least 6 months out, but they are sources in Hollywood, not in the famously tight-lipped Wal-Mart, so it's a guess only.

Will Walmart.com roll out something dramatic today like a video-download service? Or some sort of augmentation of its music-download service? (Did you even know they had one?)

I'll listen in and let you know.

Meanwhile, keep sending in ideas for our Great Tech Movies list, below.

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 24, 2006; 9:58 AM ET  | Category:  Frank Ahrens
Previous: Great Tech Movies | Next: Maybe They Should Call It Nancy.com


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