Supermarkets are now jumping on the streaming content bandwagon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMove over, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu: It’s one supermarket’s turn to offer up favorite shows and movies to customers via online streaming. British supermarket chain Tesco – the world’s third largest retailer – has announced the launch of its own proprietary streaming content service, Clubcard TV, with one interesting twist on the traditional subscription model used by the current leaders in the field: It’s free.

Well, kind of free. Clubcard TV will only be available to Tesco customers who are members of the retailer’s loyalty card program. The information about customer’s purchases using the card will be used to drive specific advertising as they watch the streamed content. “We’ll use Clubcard data to tell us what might be relevant for our customers and therefore help us deliver a more personalized service,” said Tesco Digital Entertainment CEO Michael Comish. Such personalized service is how Tesco says it will be able to offer wide entertainment selections for free.

Advertisers who have already signed on to support Clubcard TV include Kelloggs, Johnson & Johnson, and Colgate. Those are far from the only recognizable names attached to the service; content providers whose shows and movies will be screened also include Warner Bros. International Television and Endemol and Aardman. Tesco is choosing to focus – at least initially – on family and child-friendly programming; Launch titles include “The Wind in the Willows,” “Strawberry Shortcake” and traditional Sunday evening medical drama, “Doc Martin.”

Tesco plans to make Clubcard TV available to a number of devices, including tablets, smartphones, Blu-ray players, games consoles, as well as traditional cable systems; Clubcard members can access the service by entering their existing membership number along with “a few details including date of birth and zip code,” according to reports.

Once logged in, subscribers will be able not only to stream content, but also provide feedback on what they’re watching. Tesco hopes that these feedbacks will result in tweaks and additional features added to the service in the future.

Warner Bros. International Television president Jeffrey R. Schlesinger said that his company was “very pleased to have a new player in the competitive advertiser supported programming space,” adding that Tesco had “stepped up and made a financial commitment” to Warners in exchange for the “license [of] a selection of films for an exclusive short window sequenced between the traditional free TV windows.”

In other words, Netflix and Amazon customers are still going to get their movies streamed first – but, then again, that’s part of what they’re paying their subscription fees for. What will be particularly interesting is seeing whether any American supermarket chains decide to follow Tesco’s lead and provide a similar service in the U.S. They already have the customer base, after all, and who doesn’t like free?