Walmart reportedly seeks streaming partner to bolster Walmart+

    • Walmart recently met with executives from Disney, Comcast and Paramount about how streaming content might boost its Walmart+ membership program, The New York Times first reported.
    • The Times said it is unclear whether any of the streaming providers are eager to strike a deal. Walmart views the addition of the right selection of content as a potentially important value-add for customers.
    • Walmart+, which launched in September 2020, costs $12.95 per month and currently offers perks like free shipping and a six-month trial of Spotify’s premium tier. But it’s missing a noteworthy stake in streaming media, an area that has bolstered chief rival Amazon.

    A sizable streaming integration would help turn Walmart+ into a service that more closely mirrors Amazon Prime and a destination for activities beyond shopping. Disney has a variety of options in the streaming space, including Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, while Comcast operates Peacock and Paramount owns Paramount+.

    Prime Video, which is bundled into Amazon subscriptions, is a major streaming player and a reason why customers stick around even when they’re not searching for goods on the company’s e-commerce marketplace. The hub is now the exclusive home of the NFL’s coveted “Thursday Night Football” slot and is in the midst of heavily promoting a new series set in the “Lord of the Rings” universe, which has shaped up to be one of the priciest seasons of TV ever.

    Walmart+ lacks that kind of auxiliary audience draw at the moment, a potential problem as e-commerce demand cools on a broad basis. Online sales were up 1% year-on-year for the retailer in its most recent earnings report.

    Walmart hasn’t disclosed how many people have signed up for Walmart+, while third-party estimates are all over the place. Integrating a popular streamer could kickstart fresh growth and would save Walmart the trouble of building out a proprietary platform and content slate, something it tried before to little avail. Walmart used to operate the on-demand video service Vudu, but sold it to Comcast-owned Fandango in 2020.

    As with e-commerce, the streaming market is contending with a comedown from earlier pandemic highs. Consumers could cut back on their number of subscriptions in a challenging economic environment. The idea of packaging an existing streaming platform into Walmart+ might hold appeal for people who want access to premium TV and movies without paying for multiple services. At the same time, streaming providers hungry for fresh eyeballs in a tightly competitive category could value Walmart’s reach.

    There’s also the question of how a potential streaming deal would intersect with Walmart’s budding ads business, which draws on data accrued from its e-commerce and brick-and-mortar channels. Walmart has made streaming video a more important part of its strategy of late. In June, the company announced a partnership with Roku to pilot technology that makes shopping directly from streaming TV ads more seamless.


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