Wal-Mart Starts Full-Time Online DVD Rental Business

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- After a seven-month trial, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has begun full-scale operations in its online DVD rental business, hoping to catch up with market leader Netflix Inc.

Customers order the movies online. Wal-Mart sends them from six distribution points, reaching 90 percent of the nation within two days, the company says. "I think customers are really responding to the convenience of renting online," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Cynthia Lin said.

Lin said the company's increased sales of DVD players pushed the Bentonville, Ark.-based company to join Netflix and Blockbuster, which started its service last summer, the Associated Press reported.

Netflix spokeswoman Lynn Brinton said Wal-Mart and Blockbuster would end up in a battle for the number-two spot. Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif., has 1 million members.

"We're not sure what Wal-Mart has, but we're sure it's a fraction of that. Until Wal-Mart hits 100,000 they won't be a threat," Brinton said.

Lin wouldn't say how many subscribers Wal-Mart served during its test or how many have signed up since. During the trial period, the service cost $18.86 per month for DVDs mailed from Carrollton, Ga. Now, there are three price plans, starting at $15.54 for unlimited monthly rentals with a maximum of two out at a time. To keep three or four movies, the subscriptions will cost $18.76 and $21.94. Wal-Mart has 13,000 movie titles and it will have distribution points in Arkansas, California, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada and New York. Lin said the retailer plans more in the future.