Wal-Mart has finally joined the digital downloading revolution and has launched a beta site offering movie downloads to rival iTunes.

The site already offers 3000 films and TV shows from studios including Fox, Disney, Lion's Gate, MGM, Sony Pictures, Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros.

TV shows cost around $1.96, while new movies can cost up to $19.88.

As expected, the downloads work only on Windows-based machines and is only available in the US. A purchase buys you playback on one PC and one portable device that supports Windows Media Player DRM.

Wal-Mart long resisted video downloads as it believed that they would cannabalise DVD sales. Now movie releases will be available for download on the same day as the DVD release.

"It gets the ball rolling finally", said one analyst, Tom Adams of Adams Media Research, to the AP.

"Now the studios are free to pursue it as aggressively as they can without worries about what Wal-Mart is going to think."

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