Fandango Buys Vudu From Walmart

Comcast-owned movie ticket and transactional VOD service Fandango is buying Vudu.com from Walmart for an undisclosed amount.

In the deal, Vudu, which Walmart acquired 10 years ago for $100 million, will continue backend support for Walmart’s online digital movie business, while existing Vudu subscribers will still have access to content stored in the cloud. Vudu reportedly has access to 100 million households and nearly 15 million app downloads.

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It remains to be seen how Fandango will incorporate Vudu, either as a standalone service or combined with transactional platform FandangoNow.

“We will continue to invest in areas where we have the greatest strength and are in the best position to serve our customers today and in the future,” a Walmart spokesperson said in a statement. “Pickup and delivery are great examples of how we’ve invested to bring digital and physical capabilities together to better serve our customers, by offering more choice and convenience.”

Indeed, Walmart, which has been shopping Vudu for some time, plans to continue focus on physical and digital transactions through its stores and Walmart.com.

“We’re focused on serving customers through these type of omni-retail experiences and we’re actively prioritizing our investments to maximize our strengths and serve them in new ways,” said the spokesperson.

In 2017, Vudu became the first mobile app to convert DVDs and Blu-ray Disc titles into digital libraries from a customer’s phone. The mobile disc-to-digital platform operated on iPhone and Android devices and featured digital access to more than 8,000 movies from Lionsgate, Paramount Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (now Disney), Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

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Vudu Adds New User Controls

Vudu March 12 announced new software features that afford users greater control of their content selections and libraries.

The Walmart-owned transactional VOD platform with more than 150,000 movies and TV shows now lets users create personalized content lists to suit their various needs such as “Family Movie Night” or “Date Night,” and organize their library accordingly.

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Movie collectors can now organize their content by franchise, including “My Star Wars Movies.” Users can also include titles that they haven’t purchased — such as tracking the top 100 movies of all time — or free titles from Vudu’s catalog or even create multiple wishlists such as “My Wife’s Wishlist” or “My TV Show Wishlist.”

“Vudu’s new lists feature aims to further its mission to empower their customers and provide them with the best possible user experience,” the platform said in a statement.

Vudu is a member of the industry-backed Movies Anywhere platform.

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‘WSJ’: NBCUniversal in Talks to Buy Vudu, Fox Eyeing Tubi

Comcast’s NBCUniversal is reportedly in talks to acquire Walmart’s Vudu service while Fox Corp. is looking at buying ad-supported video-on-demand service Tubi, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Vudu offers transactional digital rentals and purchases, and the move would bring Vudu into the same company fold as the FandangoNow TVOD service.

Vudu also offers an ad-supported free service launched in 2016.

NBCUniversal plans to launch its own video service, Peacock, April 15 with AVOD and SVOD options.

Last fall reports surfaced that Walmart was looking to shed Vudu as it wasn’t part of the retailer’s core business.

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AVOD service Tubi, also reportedly an acquisition target, this time by Fox, saw its monthly active users reach 25 million in December with a total view time (TVT) of more than 163 million hours watched — a year-over-year TVT increase of 160%. The deal to buy Tubi could be valued at more than $500 million, according to the Journal.

Vudu Greenlights ‘Legacy’ Series Showcasing Children of Famous Athletes

Vudu, Walmart’s digital video service, Jan. 7 announced it has ordered the eight-episode docuseries “Legacy.” The new Vudu Original will star 13-time NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade, who will also serve as an executive producer on the series.

“Legacy” joins Vudu’s slate of original content including series “Mr. Mom” and feature film Adventure Force 5.

“Legacy” will chronicle the lives of gifted young athletes who all have one thing in common — they are the children of famous athletes, and they are working toward living up to the name on their back while also building their own athletic identity.

The docuseries will be available for free exclusively on Vudu in 2020.

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“Legacy is a part of Vudu’s commitment to invest in creating premium and compelling original content for families to enjoy together,” Jeremy Verba, VP and GM of Vudu, said in a statement.

The docuseries will follow Wade’s son, Zaire Wade, as he navigates his senior year of high school as a Division I basketball prospect; and Randall Cunningham’s daughter, Vashti Cunningham, who is a track and field athlete specializing in the high jump and a contender to win gold at the 2020 Olympics.

The series will also shadow Evan and Elijah Holyfield, the sons of former heavyweight world champion boxer Evander Holyfield. Evan is following in his father’s footsteps and pursuing a professional boxing career, while Elijah (who played at University of Georgia) has chosen a different path as an NFL running back. Additional names will be announced in the coming months.

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“I’m proud to executive produce ‘Legacy’ and bring my son’s athletic journey to other aspiring young athletes,” said Wade. “I hope this docuseries leaves viewers feeling inspired through showing the hard work and dedication needed to turn your dreams into reality.”

 

Streaming, Consolidation Dominate Top 10 Home Entertainment Stories of 2019

Streaming and consolidation dominated the home entertainment headlines in 2019, with the Walt Disney Co. leading the way. Netflix got some subscription streaming competition, and free streaming through advertising, or AVOD, emerged as a new star. It was also a year that saw the home entertainment industry lose a venerable studio player that had helped birth the business more than 40 years prior — 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Meanwhile, physical disc sales and rentals continued a structural decline, while electronic sellthrough, the digital sale of content, was a solid performer in the transactional business.

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Here are the top 10 home entertainment stories of 2019, as chosen by Media Play News staff:

  1. Disney Acquires Fox: Disney closed its $71.3 billion purchase of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. The deal included myriad Fox properties, including Fox’s interest in Hulu and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, which helped birth the home video industry in 1979. The merger also saw the departure of several executives, including Mike Dunn and James Finn at Fox and Janice Marinelli, president of global content sales & distribution for Disney’s direct-to-consumer & international unit.
  2. Disney + Bows: Calling it the company’s most-important consumer product ever, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the launch of Disney+, a standalone SVOD service aimed at taking on segment pioneer Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The service launched Nov. 12 at $6.99 a month offering a trove of catalog movies, including its venerable animated classics and Marvel hits, and catalog TV shows, in addition to original “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian,” an instant fan hit from director Jon Favreau. Disney also unveiled the bundle offer of ESPN+, Hulu (now controlled by Disney) and Disney+ at $12.99 a month.
  3. AVOD in the Spotlight: Advertising-supported video-on-demand, or AVOD, emerged from the SVOD shadows, gaining traction among subscription-weary consumers looking for free content. Mega-media companies Comcast, Viacom (through the acquisition of Pluto TV) and Amazon (through IMDb) acknowledged the growing market. Reports surfaced that Comcast is eyeing acquiring AVOD player Xumo TV to go along with 2020’s Peacock streaming service debut.
  4. Apple TV+ Launches: Apple Nov. 1 launched a standalone branded subscription streaming service at $4.99 a month, Apple TV+, in more than 100 countries and regions through the Apple TV app. Original content included Golden Globe-nominated “The Morning Show,” “See,” “For All Mankind” and “Dickinson.”
  5. Electronic Sellthrough Continues to Grow: Outside of subscription streaming video, the only home entertainment category to post an increase in consumer spending during much of 2019 was electronic sellthrough, the digital purchase of movies and other content. The segment generated an estimated $1.9 billion in consumer spending through the third quarter of 2019, up 6.7% from the previous-year period, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
  6. Redbox Gets Into Content, Out of Disney Movie Code Sales: Redbox launched Redbox Entertainment, a new label to acquire and produce content exclusive for Redbox’s 50 million kiosk consumers. The company tapped Broad Green Pictures and Lionsgate veteran Marc Danon to head content acquisition. The kiosk vendor also settled 2-year-old litigation with Disney, agreeing not to sell the studio’s digital movie codes.
  7. Filmmakers Tweak UHD: The UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies and episodic TV called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended.
  8. Netflix Takes a U.S. Sub Hit: Disaster struck Wall Street favorite Netflix after the streaming behemoth posted a 126,000 domestic subscriber loss in Q2 after projecting growth of 300,000 subs. It was Netflix’s first domestic sub loss since 2011 when co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings announced the short-lived separation of the company’s DVD rental business from its subscription streaming business. Regardless, stock plummet nearly 20% (or $26 billion) in value after the disappointing numbers.
  9. Changes Afoot at Vudu: Vudu — rumored to be up for sale by owner Walmart, which executives told The Information considers it a non-core business — quietly downsized support for its Vudu To Go/In-Home Disc to Digital app, effective Jan. 1, 2020. The digital movie transactional service will still allow users to convert DVD and Blu-ray movies for digital access by scanning UPC codes on the Vudu app via select portable devices such as a mobile phone and tablet.
  10. Netflix Hails Discs: Taking its eye off its dominant streaming business for a moment, Netflix acknowledged a milestone: Delivery of 5 billion discs since the launch of its legacy disc-by-mail rental service more than two decades ago. The disc rental: Paramount’s Rocketman.

Vudu Original Movie ‘Adventure Force 5’ Now Available

Walmart’s Vudu transaction digital content service has released its first original movie, Adventure Force 5.

The film is available to watch for free streamed through the digital service.

When their quiet beach town is invaded by a mysterious threat, five kids — a gamer, comic book geek, inventor, skater and martial artist — must band together and use an arsenal of homemade gadgets to fight back.

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Written and directed by Michael Younesi, the film stars Donald Bowen, Marleik “Mar Mar” Walker, Tate Birchmore, Kartik Ash, Lexee Davis, Dylan Arnold, Ernie Hudson and Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

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Vudu Offering Movie Rental Price Matching, Redo Option

Walmart-owned Vudu.com will now price-match movie rentals and enable users the option to “redo” a movie up to 30 minutes in a screening. Renters can cancel up to four rentals per month.

Vudu’s Rental Price Match program will credit any user’s account if they find a movie rental priced lower at a competing service such as iTunes, Amazon Instant Video or Redbox On Demand.

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In a statement, Vudu said wants to make sure that every digital renter has the “best possible” viewing experience. “Be sure to keep checking the Vudu app for weekly rental promos. You’ll find everything from discounts on specific categories to limited time free rentals.”

The platform, which has a library of more than free 10,000 titles and another 150,000 titles available to rent or buy, reportedly is up for sale if Walmart can find a suitable buyer.

First disclosed by The Information, Walmart in a statement said it is  “constantly” open to conversations with new and existing partners to explore opportunities for continued growth.

“However, we never share details of those discussions,” said the retailer.

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Vudu Cutting 4K Movie Pricing 50% Through Black Friday

Walmart-owned movie streaming service Vudu is offering 4K UHD movies 50% off normal pricing for 48 hours through Black Friday.

Movies in 4K UHD typically cost between $14.99 and $19.99 per title.

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The special promotion, which requires access to a 4K-compatible television, includes 222 titles, including Shazam!, John Wick 3, Bumblebee, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Venom, Long Shot and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, among others.

 

Walmart’s Vudu Dropping In-Home Disc-to-Digital Support

Vudu is quietly dropping support for its Vudu To Go/In-Home Disc to Digital app, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

The Walmart-owned digital movie transactional service will still allow users to convert DVD and Blu-ray movies for digital access by scanning UPC codes on the Vudu app on select portable devices such as a mobile phone and tablet.

“We look forward to continuing to refine and improve the Disc-to-Digital experience for our users,” Vudu said in the email.

Walmart made headlines in 2012 when it partnered with five major studios (Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) enabling owners of DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies to access digital files of select titles stored in the cloud.

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Lionsgate joined the platform shortly thereafter, while Disney opted to remain with its Disney Movies Anywhere platform, which is now branded Movies Anywhere.

Walmart, which launched the service in more than 3,500 stores, charged $2 per DVD or Blu-ray and $5 when upgrading to high-definition.

In 2017, Walmart switched the Disc-to-Digital platform to Vudu.com, enabling users to scan movie UPC codes (validating user ownership) through the platform app, using GPS to confirm the user’s IP address matched the address of their credit card on file. Vudu offered a free digital movie to entice users. Walmart acquired Vudu in 2010.

In 2018 Vudu discontinued conversions through the Apple version of its app, directing iPhone and iPad users to use Vudu’s mobile website to scan titles.

EMA Elects Officers, Appoints Board Members

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment, Fandango, has been re-elected chairman of the home entertainment trade group the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). Douglas will be serving his second term as chairman.

Joining Douglas as officers are vice chair Suyin Lim, senior director, content acquisitions and partnerships, PlayStation Video; secretary Pedro Guiterrez Jr., director, digital stores movies and TV business and category management, Microsoft Corp.; and treasurer Michele Edelman, head of growth, Premiere Digital Services.

Eric Opeka

Bill Kotzman, Google/YouTube’s partner product manager, TV and Film; Erick Opeka, president, Cinedigm Digital Networks; and Jason Peterson, CEO of GoDigital Medial Group, will also serve on the association’s executive committee as at-large members.

Amazon returns to the EMA’s board, now represented by senior product manager Jude Fitzmorris.

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Other returning board members are Amit Balan, head of marketing at Vudu, and Marty Graham, SVP at ComScore.

Three members newly appointed board members are Opeka, Edelman and Elissa Brown, VP of finance and operations at Movies Anywhere.

“The companies on EMA’s board of director reflect the variety of delivery mechanisms and business models in our vibrant industry,” said Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO. “Each director brings an important perspective, and their wealth of experience will benefit the membership as EMA continues to be the forum for the home entertainment industry.”

The EMA is a not-for-profit international trade association. Members include digital retailers, MVPDs, AVOD and SVOD networks and channels, platforms, companies creating and/or distributing content for these channels of distribution, and companies providing services or technology for the use of others in this community. EMA was established in April 2006 through the merger of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA).