Vudu Inks Deal for MGM Original Programming

Walmart-owned reportedly signed a deal with MGM Studios for original content to be made available on the transactional VOD platform’s ad-supported “Movies on Us” service.

The deal includes exclusive North American access to original episodic series based on MGM intellectual property.

“We feel it will be a great source of family-friendly, advertiser-friendly content – which won’t be viewable anywhere else,” Scott Blanksteen, Vudu’s VP of product and ad-supported VOD, told Variety, which first reported the deal.

While media reports have suggested Walmart is dipping its toes into subscription video-on-demand distribution, Blanksteen said the MGM deal is not about SVOD, but rather ad-supported OTT video.

“I wouldn’t rule that out for the future, but there are no concrete plans or discussions for that now,” he said.

Launched in 2016, “Movies on Us” features a catalog of more than 7,000 catalog TV shows and movies free (with a Vudu account) to stream with commercials. Content providers include Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Anchor Bay Entertainment.

The platform mirrors a growing number of ad-supported OTT video services such as The Roku Channel, Shout! Factory TV and Sony Crackle.

Vudu, which offers more than 180,000 studio movies to buy and rent, is also testing targeted advertising and direct-to-consumer ecommerce.

With Walmart actively promoting ecommerce in an attempt to better compete with Amazon, Vudu is testing direct shopping links as well as product information requests.

“Walmart tends to be a crawl-walk-run company,” Blanksteen said. “We feel like we are driving in the direction of building a great, on-demand network.”

Walmart Ups Collectibles Market Presence

Walmart is entering the lucrative collectibles market by partnering with niche merchandise providers. The retail behemoth is rolling out dedicated collectibles sections selling movie, TV show and pop culture-themed merchandise, bobbleheads, T-shirts and posters in the entertainment department of more than 3,500 stores, starting Oct. 15.

“Pop culture fans are passionate about their fandoms and look for ways to incorporate it into all aspects of their life,” Brent Duwe, senior buying manager at Walmart, said in a statement. “We’re introducing a new assortment to serve fans in a way we haven’t before.”

The world’s largest retailer is partnering with Loot Crate, Funko Fanatics, McFarlane Toys and CultureFly, among others, featuring top movie, TV and game franchises reimagined as limited-edition collectibles.

Walmart will be the exclusive brick-and-mortar retail home for Loot Crate fan subscription boxes. Customers have their choice of six different boxes, all around a unique theme such as “Best of the 80s,” “Space Out,” “Merc with a Mouth,” “Not of this World,” “Gaming Treasures,” or “Gaming Legends”.

“[We] creatively collaborate with top licenses to deliver collectibles that are unique, and something that super-fans could only find at fan conventions, but now they can [find] at Walmart stores nationwide,” said Chris Davis, CEO of Loot Crate.

Funko will market Funko Pop! vinyl figures at Walmart as Funkomerchandise migrates from toy stores to Walmart’s collectibles section. The retailer will feature exclusive chrome Thanos in six different colors, one for each of the Infinity Stones.

“Collectibles is a brilliant addition to the merchandise display as is evident by the millions of people that shop pop culture favorites,” said Brian Mariotti, CEO of Funko.

CultureFly markets pop-culture-themed apparel and TV show and movie boxed collectibles, including “Supernatural,” “Game of Thrones,” super hero-themed “World’s Finest: The Collection,” “Jay and Silent Bob,” and “The Nick Box” (Viacom), among others.

“I am confident that consumers will fall in love with the assortment and feel like they are walking a mini Comic-Con at their local Walmart,” said Edward Erani, co-founder of CultureFly.

NPD: Retail Websites Fighting Back Against Amazon & Co.

Amazon is the undisputed e-commerce behemoth, generating about $53 billion in revenue in its most-recent fiscal quarter — nearly five times the revenue generated by

Yet, new data from The NPD Group finds 29% of U.S. online consumer electronics dollar sales were made through traditional retailer websites for the 12 months ending in June. During this timeframe, the retailer ecommerce sites gained online dollar share over third-party ecommerce (i.e. Amazon) primarily in high average sales prices (ASP) for products such as TVs, PCs, tablets, and printers.

Average online spending per purchase was four-times higher on traditional retailer websites ($233/purchase) than through pure-play online retailers ($60/purchase). However, pure play online retailers are seeing an average of five additional annual purchases, when compared to traditional retailer websites, providing more occasions to sell.

Traditional retailer websites made up 46% of online U.S. consumer electronics dollar sales for these higher ASP items, up 3% from the prior-year period. For lower ASP items they make up 13% of dollar sales, as pure play online retailers still dominate this more ‘grab and go’ segment.

“Across the retail landscape traditional retailers are finding success in bringing what they do well in store to the online channel,” Stephen Baker, VP, industry advisor for the TNP Group, said in a statement.

Baker said traditional retail is competing effectively with Amazon and others for higher-priced items by leveraging their merchandising expertise and the strong in-store product selections on their e-commerce platforms.

“This approach is clearly paying off in the CE industry, as evidenced by growing online sales across a variety of categories,” he said.



Vudu Adds Sony TVs to 4K UHD Compatible Devices List

Walmart-owned online movie service has upgraded its Android TV app to include Sony televisions, enabling users to watch Vudu UHD titles in 4K with Dolby Vision HDR and HDR-10 functionality.

4K claims four time the pixels of 1080p with added life-like color of high dynamic range technology.

Vudu currently offers 4K UHD on most TV brands (Samsung, LG, Vizio, inadddtion to streaming media devices Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, TiVo, Xbox One S and Nvidia Shield video game consoles.

“4K and HDR represent the best possible cinematic experience in the home – and we want to be able to deliver that experience to as many people as possible, accorss as many devices as possible,” Kristine Lopes, senior manager, product marketing at Vudu, said in a statement.

Walmart Covering the Digital Spectrum — at the Retail Store

Walmart may be considering launching a branded over-the-top video service, but it hasn’t turned its back on home entertainment at the retail level.

The world’s largest retail chain of home entertainment reported low single-digit increase in same-store entertainment sales during the second quarter (ended July 27). It was the strongest entertainment quarter in the fiscal year. Entertainment includes electronics, DVD, Blu-ray Disc movies, music CDs, video games and books.

During a recent late-night visit to a Walmart Supercenter in North Platte, Neb. (pop. 25,000), new-release and catalog movies and TV shows were available in abundant supply across all formats (including 4K UHD Blu-ray) in point-of-purchase displays and on store shelves.

From Warner Home Video’s Ocean’s 8 Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo placard greeting visitors at the door to the $3.74 DVD dump bin, this Walmart store had exponentially more titles than customers.

The location featured standalone displays for catalog titles in price points ranging from $9.96, $14.96 to $24.96. The Ocean’s 8 4K UHD Blu-ray combo (which bowed Sept. 11) was available for $29.96.

The latest HD format appears to be taking off, according to the Consumer Technology Association. The trade group expects 1.2 million 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc players to ship in 2018 (39% growth over 2017), which will make up 22% of all BD player shipments (regular BD + UHD BD). 4K UHD Blu-ray player revenue is expected to reach $180 million (up 17% over 2017).

The North Platte Walmart also marketed titles available through the industry-backed Movie Anywhere platform as well as Walmart-owned The latter included digital cards for sale that activate online access to content through a code printed on the purchase receipt.

While this Walmart store didn’t appear to be shrinking shelf space for packaged media, it did heavily market digital access. A strategy Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, contends reflects geography, especially in rural areas he says are behind the curve in adopting digital distribution.

“Sounds like what we saw five years ago in metropolitan areas,” said Pachter.

Media Play News just reported 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s ‘R’-rated superhero comedy Deadpool 2 was the top-selling disc for the third consecutive week.

And with good reason.

Fox’s shrewd in-store marketing of the sequel starring Ryan Reynolds features an entire display of “other” Fox titles with the Deadpool character superimposed on the box art and following disclaimer on the back: “I wish I was in this movie but I’m not.”

The marketing, however, was lost on Katie O’Shea, a Boulder, Colo., resident in the North Platte Walmart shopping for vacation staples.

Wandering through the entertainment section, O’Shea had stumbled across the DVD dump bin and began digging.

“I look for actors I like and movies I haven’t seen,” she said. “I like action movies. They are in a bargain bin. They’re less expensive. Seems like a good deal you can’t resist.”

O’Shea, whose DVD purchases included Criminal (Lionsgsate), The Monuments Men (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and Three Kings (Warner Bros.), said she was impressed with the quality of movies available in the dump bin, adding that paying $14.99 or more for a movie at Walmart seemed too expensive.

“I can pay that at home,” she said. “It was fun to look through the selections.”




WarnerMedia Planning to Launch Branded OTT Video Service

As expected, WarnerMedia (formerly Time Warner) is planning to launch over-the-top video service featuring Warner Bros. and HBO catalog content, in addition to Turner Sports fare. The media company will disclose more details in the fourth quarter, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told an investor group.

Speaking Sept. 12 at Goldman Sachs 27thAnnual Communacopia confab in New York, Stephenson said premium digital content – notably HBO – is the focus in today’s home entertainment market.

“HBO, we think in terms of SVOD, is a very unique asset,” Stephenson said. “Netflix is the Walmart of SVOD and HBO is the Tiffany. It is a very premium high-end brand. And Turner is one of the best networks around.”

The executive’s comments underscore AT&T’s main decision to spend $85 billion acquiring Time Warner – a transaction currently under appeal by the Department of Justice: Premium content.

“Longform scripted content for a world of media, we like what we’ve got,” Stephenson said. “And digital, is the most-visited news website in the world.”

And with that content, Stephenson said it is imperative to deal directly to the consumer. He said existing media companies have traditionally operated on a wholesale business model. Today, these companies have to aggressively go after the consumer with OTT video.

“Direct-to-consumer relationships are really critical. And with AT&T, we have 170 million direct-to-consumer relationships … to leverage and distribute this content,” he said. “And if you put together, BleacherReport and Otter Media, the monthly … number gets closer to 300 million.”

Indeed, Stephenson and WarnerMedia CEO John Stanley contend HBO remains an underutilized brand. In an earlier town hall meeting among employees over the summer, Stankey said he would tighten the screws on HBO, in addition to upping production budgets.

Stephenson reiterated that pledge.

“You’d like to fill out the schedule on HBO … but we’re not talking about Netflix-scale investments,” he said.

When asked about the DOJ’s appeal, Stephenson said 600 days had transpired since AT&T first announced its intention to acquire Time Warner. He called it an interesting process.

Specifically, Stephenson said DOJ’s antitrust case was not “very compelling,” adding the federal judge’s order revealed the government’s weaknesses in the case.

“So, the DOJ lost this case and the burden of proof was on them. And they didn’t come close to meeting the burden of proof,” he said. “And now they appeal. We don’t have to overcome the burden of appeal.”



Walmart Streaming Service Hires Former Epix CEO Mark Greenberg, Targeting ‘Roseanne’ Crowd?

Walmart’s secretive subscription streaming video service is reportedly targeting consumers not catered to by traditional content distributors — and at a price point below Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

The Wall Street Journal — citing sources familiar with the situation — said the pending SVOD service — which Walmart has not officially greenlighted — is working with former Epix CEO Mark Greenberg.

The executive, who helped bow multilevel (online, linear) distribution platform Epix with MGM, Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures in 2008, left last September after MGM acquired majority ownership. Greenberg previously worked at HBO and Showtime.

Specifically, Greenberg is looking at programming that would appeal to consumers living in middle America – away from traditional bi-coastal markets. Sources told The Journal the service would target viewers attracted to the short-lived “Roseanne” TV reboot.

“They’re catering to that Americana base,” said the source.

Whether Walmart plans to rival original content spending by Netflix ($8 billion), Prime Video ($5 billion) or HBO ($2.7 billion) remains to be seen. Not doing so would limit the service to licensing content already available on other OTT video services.

The platform would also operate separate from, the digital retail and transactional VOD service Walmart acquired in 2010.


Nickelodeon ‘Paw Patrol’ DVD Available Exclusively at Walmart Ahead of TV Debut

Nickelodeon’s TV movie Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups will be available exclusively at Walmart on DVD Sept. 11 ahead of its TV debut.

The DVD of the 44-minute program retails at $17.99 and includes a digital copy on Vudu.

In this mission, the Paw Patrol are given Mighty Pup powers after a mysterious meteor lands in Adventure Bay. When Mayor Humdinger and his nephew trap Ryder and steal the meteor to take over the city, the pups must work together and use their new powers to race to the rescue and save the day.

Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups is produced by Nickelodeon Home Entertainment and distributed by Paramount Home Media Distribution.

Walmart/Vudu Entering the SVOD Market is Fiscal Craziness

Media reports suggesting Walmart-owned will launch a subscription streaming video service in the fourth quarter to compete against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu is noteworthy for a variety of reasons, including fiscal insanity.

Walmart has owned and operated Vudu – which rents and sells digital movies – since 2010 will little fanfare. Entering the SVOD space would be a major step up to a completely different market – one dominated in myriad ways by SVOD pioneer Netflix and Amazon.

Amazon, which competes with Walmart in ecommerce, offers Prime Video (among other Prime features) free to its members. But is Walmart ready to emulate Amazon’s spending of billions of dollars acquiring and/or producing original content?

Netflix this year will spend $8 billion on content. It ended the most-recent fiscal period with more than $18 billion in third-party content obligations. Amazon is spending about $6 billion, with Hulu, Apple, Google/YouTube collectively spending billions more as well.

To be sure, Walmart has the financial resources to compete with Netflix and Amazon, but why would it want to in a market already dominated by three players – and Disney planning to become the fourth?

Disney, which is about to become majority owner of Hulu, has a major Ace up its sleeve: Pixar, Lucasfilm (Star Wars) and Marvel movies. The titles dominate the box office – and ostensibly could drive SVOD traffic as well.

Walmart/Vudu own no studio, production house or marquee show runners as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Disney do.

Unless Walmart envisions Vudu SVOD as a loss-leader service driving traffic to its ecommerce website, simply streaming licensed TV shows and movies for $8 a month isn’t going to move the needle – just expenses.


Walmart Reportedly Eyes Streaming Service of Its Own

The Walt Disney Co. may not be alone in its quest to launch a subscription streaming service to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

Walmart reportedly is considering a proprietary over-the-top (OTT) video service featuring both subscription and ad-supported business models.

Walmart, which currently owns and operates, a transactional VOD and digital sales platform, could add the SVOD service – priced at $8 per month – according to The Information, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

A Walmart representative was not immediately available for comment.

Netflix last October raised its monthly fee to $10.99 for new subscribers from $9.99. And in January, Amazon spiked its monthly subscription charge for Prime by nearly 20%, to $12.99 from $10.99.

Hulu charges $7.99 for a monthly plan with commercials or $11.99 a month commercial-free.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart is no stranger to home entertainment, having long dominated packaged media sales.

In 2012, with studio support, Walmart launched a disc-to-digital service at stores that enabled consumers to convert their DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies into digital files for fee. The retailer expanded the service a year later through Vudu enabling users to convert a DVD ($2) or Blu-ray ($5) to a digital file from their home.

Taking on Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu, which collectively spend tens of billions of dollars a year licensing third-party and original content, would require a major financial commitment from Walmart.

While the retailer has the requisite fiscal deep pocket to fund a SVOD service, does it have the will?

Redbox and Verizon in 2014 shuttered Redbox Instant, a hybrid disc/SVOD service that attempted to take on Netflix featuring 5,000 titles. It lasted just 18 months.

“The service had not been as successful as either partner hoped it would be,” a Verizon spokesperson said in 2014. “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our customers.”

Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities, estimated Redbox Instant generated about 900,000 subscribers before calling it quits.

In August 2017, Vudu arrived on Apple TV. The new app allows users to watch the movies and TV shows saved to their Vudu libraries, but like its iOS counterpart, the Apple TV version of Vudu doesn’t allow them to rent or buy videos through the app directly. Instead, they have to make a purchase through the browser or another device first.

Walmart as of Jan. 31, 2018, had 11,718 stores and clubs in 28 countries, operating under 59 different names. Of those stores, 4,761 are in the United States, accounting for more than 62% of total sales.

Walmart in May said U.S. comp-store sales were up 2.1% from the prior year, while total revenue for the quarter rose 4.4% to $122.7 billion.