Mega-retailer Walmart is finally lurching back into the streaming video business, unveiling a new service that makes Vudu streaming video available from its Walmart.com Web site. Walmart bought Vudu back in early 2010, and an eye towards reaping income from Vudu services integrated with set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, and HDTVs sold through the company’s massive retail efforts. Now, the company is making Vudu’s library of movies and other video content available for online streaming, with rentals starting as low as 99 cents—although that scales up to as much as $5.99. Purchase prices for movies start at $4.99.
“At Walmart, one of our key priorities is to provide a continuous channel for our customers, from our stores to our powerful e-commerce and social media platforms,” said Walmart.com senior VP and general manager Steve Nave, in a statement. “With Vudu becoming increasingly popular among our customers, we’re providing them more access to enjoy this digital entertainment experience directly online at Walmart.com.”
Walmart is not offering a subscription service, a la NetFlix, that provides customers with all-they-can-eat streaming for a fixed price. Instead, Walmart’s online video offerings take an approach like Apple’s iTunes store, where customers pay for content on an item-by-item basis.
As part of the launch, customers will be able to vote on Facebook for a new release title that will be available for customers to rent for just 99 cents: folks just need to log into Facebook and “like” the title they want to see get the discount treatment.
Offering streaming movies through Walmart.com marks another way Walmart is leveraging the Vudu investment: Walmart already offers customers the option of selecting a digital Vudu title and/or a physical disc when purchasing a movie in a store: folks buying the digital version can then stream it from their Vudu device when they get home. Walmart also offers a digital movie card with similar functionality.
Customers can watch Vudu movies on Vudu-enabled set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, and HDTVs, as well as the PlayStation 3 and—in a relatively new addition for Vudu—computers with a modern Web browser, at least for standard-resolution content. Vudu is available in the U.S. only, and users need to be 13 years old or more to set up an account.
The offering marks Walmart’s second foray into the online video market: Walmart briefly ran a video download service in 2007, shutting it down abruptly at the end of the year with virtually no notice to customers.