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Walmart builds streaming service for Amazon Prime

Walmart is looking into building its own streaming service The New York Times reported, and is in talks with some major content players about what shows and movies it can offer to Walmart Plus subscribers. The company has apparently held talks with Paramount, Disney and Comcast about the service, although it’s not clear if those talks have led to anything. (Walmart declined to comment.)

In recent years, Walmart has tried a number of ways to get deeper into the entertainment business. It acquired Vudu all the way back in 2010, after which it largely neglected the service for a decade before being sold to Fandango in 2020. Meanwhile, back in 2018, Walmart was rumored to be developing its own streaming service before dropping those plans as well. It has over time made deals with Redbox and other streaming and rental companies and even has a streaming box of its own brand Onn. But as the company continues to look for perks to offer people who spend $98 a year on a Walmart Plus subscription, the company appears to be rethinking its streaming plans.

Walmart disk to digital

Walmart has been trying to discover digital entertainment for a long time. A long time.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

One important thing to understand about Walmart Plus is that it’s really just Amazon Prime. With your membership you get free shipping, faster checkout and special deals for members only. (Also cheaper gas.) Walmart is looking for ways to inspire more brand loyalty and draw people into its subscription universe (and thus its marketplace). Joining the content wars supports that ambition in two ways: it gives people more to do within your ecosystem and it reduces the number of bills they pay.

There are several ways Walmart could approach its streaming ambitions, both of which Amazon has done with great success. One is to license a lot of content, create an original team to create exclusive Walmart products, and really go after Netflix and Disney and the rest. In that case, it would be somewhat surprising to see Comcast, Paramount and Disney selling content to Walmart Plus that they could reserve for their own services. (One solution for Walmart could be to build something like the Roku Channel, an ad-supported service that doesn’t compete directly.)

Walmart could also emulate Amazon’s Channels product, which instead of competing with other streaming services, helps users subscribe to it. In that world, Walmart Plus subscribers can get a special deal on Peacock or Paramount Plus or simply access those services by logging in through Walmart. Walmart is going to be a powerful marketing tool for those services, and it makes Walmart Plus more useful by consolidating many accounts and monthly payments into one.

All this is provisional, the Time reported and came to nothing. Walmart could decide it doesn’t want to spend the money and energy trying to take on the streaming giants again — especially in an increasingly competitive market where even Netflix is ​​suddenly feeling unstable. But Walmart has been exploring this space for a long time, and the Prime playbook says streaming is worth the effort and the billions of dollars it takes to make it happen.

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