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NBCUniversal is in talks to acquire Walmart’s Vudu video business, a source familiar with the discussions tells The Hollywood Reporter.
A deal would give NBCU ownership of Vudu’s digital marketplace for movies and television shows. Vudu also offers a free, ad-supported video service. An NBCU spokeswoman declined to comment. Representatives for Vudu and Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Walmart spokesman told THR, “We’re constantly having conversations with partners but we don’t share details of those discussions.”
The talks come ahead of NBCUniversal’s planned launch of new streaming service Peacock, which will offer both ad-supported and subscription video plans. Vudu could help to bolster Peacock’s free, ad-supported tier. Meanwhile, its digital marketplace could serve as a companion offering, one that would tie in with the NBCU-owned movie ticketer and rental service Fandango.
Walmart acquired Vudu in 2010 as the home video market began to decline. The service, launched in 2004, allows people to buy and rent more than 100,000 movies and shows online and via connected TV services. Over the years, Vudu also expanded to offer free titles for streaming. Walmart says Vudu has an install base of 100 million devices.
Walmart explored launching a subscription video service in 2018 but ultimately decided not to move forward with those plans. Instead, it formed a joint venture with interactive media company Eko to develop programming for Vudu. It also began to invest in original Vudu programming like a Mr. Mom reboot.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the talks, also previously reported that NBCU is in talks to acquire ad-supported streaming platform Xumo. The company appears to be looking to bulk up its video offering as it prepares the launch of Peacock, which will roll out to some users in April and more broadly in July.
Peacock will be available at multiple price points. A free, ad-supported tier will offer limited programming. It will cost $5 per month to upgrade to a more robust ad-supported tier and $10 per month to watch that programming without ads.
The ad-supported video space has flourished in recent years as concerns mount that consumers will become fatigued by the growing number of subscription streaming options. In 2019, Viacom acquired Pluto TV for $340 million and Amazon launched free, ad-supported IMDb TV. Now, in addition to the potential Vudu and Xumo deals, WSJ reports that Fox is in talks to acquire free video service Tubi.
Feb. 21, 2:50 p.m. Updated with a statement from Walmart.
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