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Studios Can Take a Cue from Walmart’s Simple Program

12 Apr, 2012 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Walmart’s big disc-to-digital conversion program, which launches April 16 in more than 3,500 stores, could be the answer to packaged media’s sales slump.

The giant retailer is breathing new life into consumers’ tired old DVD collections, offering to unlock a digital version on a remote server that can be accessed at any time on a wide selection of devices, from computers to tablets and even smartphones.

That’s simplifying the process, of course, but quite honestly that’s how it needs to be presented to Walmart customers, who truly represent mainstream America. Concepts like “cloud” and “digital storage locker” are beyond most Americans; we in the business have a jaded sense of what people should comprehend simply because we’re immersed in it, day in and day out.

My plumber, my gardener — heck, even my 10th grader’s history teacher, my realtor, my doctor and my lawyer — don’t want technical specs, jargon or complicated explanations of how things work.

They want to know what they can do, and the simple fact of Walmart’s initiative is exactly as I described it above: Hand the clerk your disc, fork over $2 for a regular transfer or $5 for a super-clear high-def upgrade, and before you know it you can watch whatever’s on that disc wherever and whenever you like, on whatever electronic gadget you happen to be fooling around with at the moment.

As the great journalism instructor Jacques Barzun once said, the key to getting a point across is to be “simple and direct.” And if anyone can master the art of simplicity and directness, it’s the associates at Walmart, since they’ve been dealing with mainstream consumers — as opposed to highbrow Hollywood types — for years.

Studio executives would be wise to follow Walmart’s lead when they start ramping up marketing for the other side of the UltraViolet equation, new Blu-ray Discs that are enabled with the technology, off the shelf.

Make matters as simple and uncomplicated as humanly possible. Make it easy to understand, and easy to execute.

This is a big, big chance Hollywood has to get the disc business rolling again, pun intended. Let’s not blow it by focusing too much on the message and making sure we’re saying the right thing. In the end, the right thing isn’t always necessarily the smart thing.

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