Wal-Mart on ESPN

Okay, so it’s not surprising to hear that one of the world’s largest retailers has inked an advertising deal with ESPN. Even less surprising is the fact that the deal is for time on (the new) Monday Night Football that starts next Monday. And given the strong links between HD and sports, there’s no surprise at all that the retailer will be pushing their HDTV products.

The surprise is that this retailer is Wal-Mart. Yes, the sprawling blue box purveyor of inexpensive clothing and G-rated CDs is pushing HDTVs.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think about Wal-Mart, I think about the best price in town on jeans, or sodas, or a toaster, but HDTVs? I don’t even think of Target — a slightly more upscale version of Wal-Mart, in my mind — for HDTVs. I’d only expect to find the smallest, off-brand LCD TVs in those stores, and few of them with HD resolution at that.

So this looks like a daring strategy for Wal-Mart. Can they find enough well-heeled customers on their snack food aisle to move many HDTVs? On the other hand, it may be that they see large LCD TV prices falling below some critical trigger point that is about to spark buying from a new and larger segment of the population. So while it may be an uphill battle to get people to associate HDTVs with Wal-Mart, a big campaign on Monday Night Football sounds like a good way to start.