Friday, February 11, 2011, 10:21 AM ET|Posted by Will RichmondEarlier this week IHS Screen Digest released market share estimates for major movie download or "EST" (electronic sell through) outlets in 2010, and no surprise, Apple's iTunes was atop the group, with a dominant 64.5% position. However, that was down 10 points from 2009, as Microsoft, Sony and others all gained share. IHS Screen Digest's research analyst Arash Amel noted that in 2011, Apple is going to face a potentially powerful new competitor in Wal-Mart, which acquired the Vudu VOD service early last year, which could turn the "iVOD" market into a 2 horse race.
That may well be, but Wal-Mart has only recently become more aggressive, and given the giant retailer's previous false starts in digital media, it's still way too early to tell what kind of a player it will be. Meanwhile, a larger issue for all these competitors is that the movie downloading model is still fundamentally flawed for consumers. The absurd 30 day-from-download and 24 hours-from-playstart expiration policies the studios mandate make downloading highly inflexible. Then there's the value gap; downloading one movie from these services can cost almost half as much as an entire month of unlimited streaming on Netflix. Maybe digital lockers like UltraViolet or whatever Google makes of its Widevine acquisition will help fire up the EST market, but for now, I think it will remain a relatively small opportunity.