…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…
• Variety reports that Comcast's NBCUniversal division "is in talks to buy Vudu, the Walmart-owned entertainment rental, download and free-streaming service." Such a deal, the story says, "would boost NBCU’s digital-video presence as it preps the launch of Peacock, a streaming service that will have a hybrid free and paid model, stocked with originals, licensed content and library programming (including the full run of 'The Office')."
From the Variety story: "Walmart, which acquired Vudu in 2010 for a reported $100 million, in 2016 began offering free, ad-supported library content to its service and more recently began delivering original shows on the free platform including a series reboot of ’80s comedy 'Mr. Mom' and live-action kids’ sci-fi movie 'Adventure Force 5.' Other Vudu originals in the works include a travel/comedy show executive produced by Queen Latifah; sci-fi series 'Albedo' starring Evangeline Lilly; and an interview docu-series with Randy Jackson. Last month, Vudu ordered sports docuseries 'Legacy' starring and executive produced by retired NBA All-Star Dwayne Wade that follows the progeny of top pro athletes (including Wade’s son, Zaire Wade)."
However, there have been reports going back several months that Walmart was shopping Vudu around. The story quotes a Walmart spokesperson as saying that "I can share that we’ve built Vudu into an incredibly strong business, with an installed base of more than 100 million devices across America. We’re constantly having conversations with partners but we don’t share details of those discussions."
I can think of a lot of reasons why Walmart might be interested in getting rid of Vudu.
First of all, I can't imagine that the folks in Bentonville think of it as being as core business, or a core competency. It might've looked like a good idea a decade ago as Amazon was ramping up its Prime Video business and Netflix was catching fire, but the landscape of streaming businesses has gotten very crowded and very expensive, as companies are throwing around enormous amounts of money on things like "The Mandalorian" or various Star Trek series or a new iteration of "The Lord of The Rings."
I'm sure Walmart's execs look at these numbers - both the plethora of companies getting into the segment and size of the checks they're writing - and figure that if they can sell Vudu and make a profit, well, there's nothing like getting out when they getting is good.
But … I also have to wonder if Walmart will see stories like the one above - about Amazon using streaming video to drive sales in the fashion segment - and rethink whether it is missing an opportunity to do something more.
I've always argued here that Walmart is a retailer, while Amazon has its eye on a far bigger target. This may be yet another example of how this is true.