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Walmart buys Vizio — and its ad and data business — for $2.3 billion

Vizio M-Series Quantum X TV Review
Riley Young / Digital Trends

Vizio — the longtime television manufacturer that morphed into a an advertising company that also makes TVs — has been purchased by retail giant Walmart. The deal had been rumored for a week or so, and Walmart made it official today in a press release, with the Irvine, California, company selling for $2.3 billion in stock at $11.50 per share.

If you had any doubt why Walmart wanted to buy a company that makes TVs, given the low margin on sets these days, the press release immediately made clear that it’s more about the advertising side of Vizio’s business. Vizio serves up ads and collects viewing data via its SmartCast operating system, which the company said reached 17.9 million active accounts in the third quarter of 2023. Vizio’s “Platform+” earnings category reported $156.2 million in revenue for the quarter, up 22%, with $99.8 million in profit, while its hardware division revenue was down 12% to $270 million and lost $3.3 million on the quarter. Vizio also has its WatchFree+ channels, which are free for users and generate revenue from ads.

“There is a lot to be excited about with this acquisition,” Seth Dallaire, executive vice president and chief revenue officer for Walmart U.S., said in a press release. “We believe Vizio’s customer-centric operating system provides great viewing experiences at attractive price points. We also believe it enables a profitable advertising business that is rapidly scaling. Our media business, Walmart Connect, is helping brands create meaningful connections with the millions of customers who shop with us each week. We believe the combination of these two businesses would be impactful as we redefine the intersection of retail and entertainment.”

The press release also led not with Vizio’s hardware — which for years was a leader in TV sets that hit a sweet spot between performance and affordability — but with the platform side of the business. “The acquisition of Vizio and its SmartCast Operating System (OS) would enable Walmart to connect with and serve its customers in new ways including innovative television and in-home entertainment and media experiences,” the release read.

Walmart didn’t elaborate on what may become of Vizio’s hardware. It’s possible that it could supplant Walmart’s in-house (and very awkwardly named) “.onn” brand of TVs, but it’s worth noting that Vizio’s hardware lineup of TVs and soundbars has all but been forgotten the past few years. Indeed, the press release notes that the benefits from the acquisition “would be further strengthened by the growth of connected TV platforms and Walmart’s industry-leading TV panel sales.” Walmart’s panel sales. Not Vizio’s.

And it’s interesting that there were plenty of mentions of SmartCast, but not that it was rebranded in June 2023 to Vizio Home Screen.

“We believe this is the ideal next chapter in Vizio’s history,” Vizio CEO William Wang said. “By bringing our capabilities and resources together, we’ll drive innovation and create even more value for our customers.” Walmart’s approach is aligned with Vizo’s mission and vision, and our technology will help bring a scaled, connected TV advertising platform to Walmart Connect. This transaction delivers immediate and compelling value to Vizio stockholders and is a true testament to the hard work of the entire Vizio team.”

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Phil Nickinson
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