About a week ago Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) removed the pre-ordering option for several DVD releases of popular movies from Walt Disney Co. (DIS). The dispute between the two companies over pricing is not Amazon’s first go at trying to force its proposed payment schedule on content producers. But the online retailer may have picked the wrong target.
This past Friday Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) began promoting pre-orders for the same films that Amazon has shunned. The titles include “Muppets: Most Wanted,” which was released to video on August 12; “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” due September 9; “Million Dollar Arm,” due October 7; and “Maleficent,” due November 4. “Muppets: Most Wanted” is available at the Walmart website at a 50% discount to the list price of $29.99.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Maleficent” can be pre-ordered at the same price discount, while “Million Dollar Arm” is discounted 14% to $18.96 from its $21.99 list price.
The Muppet movie, which was released by Disney last week, is available at Amazon, but the others carry the notice, “Sign up to be notified when this item becomes available.” A subtitled version of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is available from Amazon sellers, but not from Amazon itself.
A Walmart spokesman told Bloomberg that pre-orders for “Captain America” are up by 90% and the other titles are up 40%.
Amazon has not cornered the video distribution business the way it appears to have muscled into the book business. And there is really no moat deep enough or wide enough that Amazon can build to keep Disney from distributing its films. Amazon may have picked a fight it can’t win this time.