Walmart Removes Online Video Offerings In Aim To Become Entertainment Hub


Walmart Inc.

WMT 2.12%

has made deals with an old-school Hollywood studio and next-gen interactive video startup as part of the world’s largest retailer drive to become an entertainment hub.

Earlier this week, Walmart struck a deal with MGM Holdings Inc. for the studio to create original content exclusive to Vudu, the on-demand streaming service Walmart purchased in 2010. In addition, Walmart is also forming a joint venture to content with Eko, a video platform specializing in entertainment and commerce content.

Movements are indicative of growing competition between Walmart and Amazon.com Inc.,

which is also investing heavily in video, largely to attract potential customers to its platform.

“We believe this will lead to deeper engagement with customers,” said Scott McCall, Walmart’s senior vice president of entertainment. “We want them to walk past our digital store multiple times a day. “

A priority for Walmart is to strengthen Vudu, which allows users to buy or rent around 180,000 individual movies. The service is widely available on TVs and streaming devices such as Roku, but has not attracted the use of competitors including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

The first original show from the MGM partnership will be a remake of the “Mr. Mum, ”the 1980s comedy about a man busy babysitting while his wife works outside the home. He is expected to debut next year.

Shows will be free when viewed with ads on Vudu. Walmart is also looking to partner with other studios to license exclusive video content, but has no plans to own the shows long-term or endure the costly effort of directly producing shows.

Walmart is looking to bolster its Vudu app, which allows users to buy or rent 180,000 individual movies, but hasn’t gained popularity from competitors like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.


Photo:

Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg News

“We don’t want to give the impression of being a studio. We want to partner with studios and content creators, ”said McCall.

He also said that the company has no immediate plans to launch a separate subscription video service to compete with Netflix Inc. The company has had preliminary discussions on creating such a service, but they do not. have never advanced, he said.

Walmart aims to license videos that target its top middle and low-income buyers in rural and suburban communities, a demographic that Walmart says is underserved by current streaming services, spokesperson Justin said. Rushing.

Creating revolutionary content is increasingly difficult in a media environment where consumers have a myriad of options. A range of companies, from streaming giants like Netflix to new players like Apple Inc.

and Facebook Inc, create original programming. AT&T Inc.

On Wednesday, it announced plans to launch a new subscription streaming service next year that will house the television and movie properties of its WarnerMedia division.

The cost of entry is high, as these players compete for the best talent and shows. In its favor, Walmart has a website seen by over a million unique users per month, which gives it a solid foundation to market its programming and e-commerce efforts.

Terms of the deal with Eko were not disclosed, but people familiar with the matter said Walmart is investing $ 250 million in the company. Walmart will also participate in Eko’s next fundraising round, the companies said. Other Eko investors include Sequoia Capital, Sony Corp.

, MGM and Samsung Electronics Co.

The retail industry is undergoing another major shift – towards e-commerce. How did we get here? Photo: Associated press

Founded by Yoni Bloch, an Israeli musician turned tech entrepreneur, Eko created branded interactive content for Coca-Cola,

Ford Lincoln and IKEA. He also creates original and short interactive series in which viewers can choose the direction of a story. The company was also behind a 2013 video of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” which went viral.

Mr Bloch said the company’s goal was to help Walmart move from a “transactional relationship” with its customers “to an emotional relationship.”

Walmart’s content can range from cooking shows to interactive toy catalogs, the companies said. It will appear on Walmart.com, although Eko also has the freedom to upload the content to other social media platforms, people familiar with the partnership said.

Walmart’s advertising will be included in the entertainment content produced by the company and the companies will share the revenue.

“It’s really what we think is the next generation of storytelling,” said Mr. McCall. “It can be marketing. It can be a short video or long content. It may reside on Walmart.com or Vudu, but it is not tied to those platforms, ”he added.

Walmart’s partnership with Eko has been dubbed W * E Interactive Ventures. Mr. Bloch will lead it and former CBS Television Network President Nancy Tellem, who is Eko’s Executive Chairman and Chief Media Officer, will sit on the joint venture’s board of directors.

“Audiences are hungry for immersive entertainment and storytellers are embracing this new technology to create a new kind of storytelling that deeply engages the viewer,” Ms. Tellem said.

Write to Joe Flint at [email protected] and Sarah Nassauer at [email protected]

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