Omnipresent brick-and-mortar retail chain Walmart has just launched a video streaming service on its website. The service is powered by Vudu, a digital video company that Walmart acquired over a year ago. Unlike Netflix, Vudu is not a subscription service and instead charges users for individual streaming rentals or purchases. Prices range from $1-$5.99 for rentals, with purchases starting at $4.99.
Though Vudu has been around for a while, its launch directly on Walmart’s website opens a new chapter for the service. It is also the surest signal that Walmart, a juggernaut DVD retailer, wants a piece of the streaming video pie. It’s possible that the company might not see optical media like DVDs and Blu-rays as the sure bet they once were, and is seeking to diversify its stock.
Moving into the video streaming world, Walmart is entering an arena full of venerable powers: Apple, which has been renting movies from iTunes for years; Netflix, which made streaming a household occurrence, but has struggled with both studios and pricing; Hulu, the service that brought TV to the computer; Blockbuster, the former rental chain become kiosk service become streaming service; and Amazon, which rents movies in a similar scheme to Walmart with a variety of viewing options.
The interesting thing about all of these contenders is that they are all, in one way or another, weak. Apple’s video service never really took off, Netflix’s future is increasingly uncertain, Hulu is looking for a buyer, Blockbuster is amazed it’s still around, and Amazon has yet to make a big splash in the market. This would seem to leave plenty of room for Walmart, especially for those already familiar with the brand or those shopping for new TVs and video equipment in the Walmart themselves.
If Walmart can bring its consumer base onboard, and keep its head above water with so many forces keen on pulling it down, then it could become quite the powerhouse. If not, it will be just another empty husk on the road to the cloud-computer-media-singularity.