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Best Buy, Wal-Mart bring disc-to-digital conversion home

By Dhanya Skariachan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Retailers Best Buy Co Inc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc are enhancing their video streaming services to let customers convert previously purchased physical DVDs into digital copies without having to leave the house and trek to a store.

The news comes at a time when many Americans prefer to stream their movies through digital services rather than spending more to buy physical DVDs. U.S. retailers are also trying to cater better to people who watch movies on tablets and smartphones.

Wal-Mart started in-store disc-to-digital conversion services last year, but you still had to get off the couch and take the DVDs to a store. Best Buy still does not have an in-store disc-to-digital conversion service, and has chosen to offer the service only at home citing customer feedback.

Customers do not want to "load up a bunch of DVDs in a car and drive somewhere to get that benefit of putting the movies in the cloud," Christopher Allen, general manager of Best Buy's digital movie business, told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Monday.

The world's largest consumer electronics chain started testing the service just days before Christmas and the response has been "promising," Allen said.

Best Buy is due to officially unveil its in-home disc-to-digital conversion service at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Wal-Mart said on Monday at the same trade show that its video streaming service Vudu will also soon have the capability to convert DVD/Blu-ray movies to UltraViolet digital copies.

UltraViolet is a free, cloud-based digital library that gives users greater flexibility with how and where they watch the movies and TV shows they purchase.

Best Buy customers will need a CinemaNow.com account and have to download the CinemaNow Player software to make the conversion at home.

Once the DVD is inserted into an internet-connected device, CinemaNow will instantly recognize the movie's title and give the customer an option to convert it to a digital version that is of standard definition (SD) for $2 or high definition (HD) for $5. The movie will be added to the shopper's UltraViolet digital library.

Both retailers have partnered with several major Hollywood studios including Warner Bros, Universal Studios, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Lions Gate Entertainment on the in-home disc-to-digital program.

"From Smartphones to Smart TVs, our customers are consuming and sharing content more than ever," John Aden, executive vice president for general merchandising, Walmart U.S., said in a statement.

(Reporting By Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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