There have been many pundits that have been decrying the death of physical media in the wake of streaming media making headway’s into the mainstream. The biggest proponent of this has of course been Netflix, which has been making a concerted effort to put its software into every conceivable device under the sun, but it still takes some effort to get the word out about what exactly it does because you have to be fairly proactive in finding out about the company as a whole. What if there was a major retailer to jump into the fray? A retailer who is so ubiquitous across the landscape of the United States that it almost felt like it owned the country?
Well, say hello to Walmart entering the fight.
It was reported by The New York Times that Walmart has purchased the video streaming service Vudu, although no details of the deal were made available. The only confirmation of the deal was that both companies began contacting the Hollywood studios that have deals in place with Vudu.
The reason this gets interesting is because Vudu gave up production of its own set top boxes in 2008 in lieu for placing its software into other devices such as Blu-ray players and televisions from the likes of LG Electronics, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio. Now, imagine those devices being sold in a Walmart store and the opportunities for up-selling consumers when they purchase one of those items: “Would you like to add a one year subscription to Vudu to your purchase today? No? Well, there is a brochure in the box explaining the benefits if you would like to add it later.”
With Walmart in the fight, this may once again fire up the rumors that Amazon is courting Netflix about a buy out. It was reported as recently as three weeks ago by CNET that the two companies were again in talks about a potential purchase, but nothing has been said since then. Considering how Walmart and Amazon are shaping into two of the biggest retail combatants to ever take each other on, and it almost seems given now that Amazon will have to make a move. Yes, they do have their on demand service, but consumers are looking for a one price, all-you-can-eat video service, not an ala carte solution.
To muddy the waters even further, apparently Best Buy is working n some sort of Internet video store it is working on with Sonic Solutions, the company behind Cinema Now, to launch some time this summer. So, within the next few months we may see a very confused marketplace as consumers go from having hardly any choices to make to having to choose between all of these different options. It’s beginning to sound a bit like the e-reader fight, and you know there will have to be some sort of market shakeout at some point. For now, just sit back and enjoy the ride as hopefully there being competition will spur the companies into making even more deals to bring lots more content to our TVs.
UPDATE: Yes, the Walmart/Vudu deal was confirmed after this post was initially written.