Content is king. Everywhere you turn, media rights and creative intellectual property (IP) are skyrocketing in value as content creators secure ever-higher payments for their content (hello Netflix deals for Shonda Rhimes, the Obamas, Dave Letterman, etc.). Or, you see studios begin erecting walled gardens around their exclusive IP: Disney announced it’s pulling its content from Netflix in favor of its own, independent streaming service — and that includes all their live sporting rights and ESPN IP too. Apple is outbidding established players for new shows on its streaming services (I see you, Oprah), Amazon is still pumping out content to its loyal army of Prime subscribers and Hulu is a major player in its own right simply because it’s a joint venture between many of the biggest TV studios in the game. But you know how you know content truly is king? When behemoths completely change their business model to try and enter the game.
Walmart is the quintessential brick-and-mortal business. You go there because it’s a one-stop-shop for everything you could possibly need (oh, and their prices are usually quite a bit lower than anyone else in town), and you can walk home with it right away. So when it completely upends its business model in favor of a different way of doing things, you better believe it’s for good reason. And while the corporate giant might not be the frontier-blazing futurist some of its Silicon Valley competitors aim to be, it is certainly a bellwether for where the market may be moving long term.
In 2016, Walmart made a significant countermove to Amazon’s continued insurgency into the retail business. Walmart purchased Jet.com for a smooth $3.3 billion, even though the startup had yet to turn a profit. It’s no secret that Amazon’s on-demand e-commerce platform with its fast and free shipping for prime members was an existential threat to Walmart — especially among younger, more affluent and/or more metro-based consumers. So Walmart rolled the dice by acquiring a hipper, younger, more digital brand to help it fight back against Amazon’s perceived encroachment. By many reports, the gamble has been a huge success.
Now, Walmart is seeking to compete on the same playing field as Netflix, Hulu, the forthcoming Disney project, and Amazon streaming as well. Using its Vudu platform, Walmart is rumored to be launching a Streaming Video On Demand (SVOD) service in Q4 of 2018. The price point will be ostensibly lower than both Netflix and Amazon’s standalone SVOD pricing (allegedly). Currently, Vudu is more of a competitor to Apple’s movie offerings as a place to rent/rent to own digital releases (or gain access to digital versions of DVDs you’ve purchased from a Walmart). But, its primary use case is as a pre-installed app on smart TVs, and with a 150,000+ strong back-catalog of available titles, Vudu certainly has at least a semblance of solid relationships in Hollywood (the kind that get solid IP on your service offering). It’s unclear what percentage of Vudu’s offerings will be original IP vs. licensed existing content, but one thing is very clear: content is king, and the king of retail wants a piece of it too.