If you were hoping that Walmart would make good on rumored plans that it would launch a streaming competitor to Netflix, we’ve got disappointing news. For now at least, that concept is dead, according to a report by CNBC.
The streaming service, which was reportedly going to live under the Vudu banner (Walmart bought Vudu in 2010), hit a snag when it became clear that in order to be successful, Walmart was going to have to invest significant dollars in developing original content. Apparently this reality made Walmart uneasy, despite its collaboration with media executive Mark Greenberg, the former CEO of Epix. Walmart is a huge enterprise, with the ability to invest billions if it chooses, which makes its decision a fascinating one, especially from Netflix’s perspective.
If Netflix’s incredible original content budget — at more than $10 billion annually — has worried some analysts, it apparently has also worried Walmart. This suggests Netflix has successfully raised the barrier to compete with it so high, only those with an existing vault of premium content — and/or a history of creating winning movies and shows — have any hope of grabbing viewers from the streaming juggernaut.
Walmart says the plan at the moment is to put the focus on its existing Vudu business, which sells and rents movies and shows directly to consumers. Vudu has already dipped its toes into new streaming models — the service launched an ad-supported free movie option in 2016, for those who were content with 1080p resolution, and has even been in talks with MGM to expand such an offering with original, family-focused programming.
As for Greenberg, he’s reportedly now talking with other major retailers like Costco. The pitch: Create a streaming service to compete with Netflix that would specifically target middle America, something Greenberg had proposed to Walmart based on the strong showing that Roseanne reboot The Conners has seen.
So stay tuned. Even though Walmart’s plans for a new streaming service appear to have been shelved, it may not be long before another company throws its hat into the ring. If it does, it had better bring its content A-game, because it won’t just be up against Netflix. NBC, Disney, AT&T, Viacom, and Apple are also vying for a piece of that pie.
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