Sunday, July 29, 2018

Walmart Weighs New Video Streaming Service

A possible Walmart video streaming service aimed at rural and Middle America viewers is something of a “Fox News” strategy, aimed at a large segment of the potential audience whose cultural, religious and social views are distinct from those of urban viewers in big cities on the east and west coasts.

It is a risky thought. The U.S. online video subscription market is nearing saturation, so growth would have to come from taking market share. It will be an expensive proposition if Walmart produces some original programming. As Amazon Prime seems to have found, it is hard to create audience-attracting original programming.

Aiming for a cost that is less than Netflix or Amazon Prime, it is not yet clear whether the service would license content solely, or mostly; nor is it yet clear whether the service would include some original content.

Even if “free two-day shipping” is the main reason people subscribe to Amazon Prime, consumers still indicate that the video service is “very important.” Walmart obviously will try and leverage the stickiness of subscription video to reinforce its own retail strategy, which increasingly relies on online distribution.

On the other hand, Amazon Prime is starting to generate significant direct revenue, even if the video service is a way to boost value for the Prime membership overall. Lots of consumers arguably join Prime just for the shipping benefits, with the online video a way of justifying the subscription’s value.

Also, there is evidence that online video viewers shop more using online services. That is another potential value for Walmart: it positions itself to grab a bigger share of active online shopping users.

So the point is that a potential Walmart streaming service provides a mix of value, including direct revenue, a potential boost for its online retailing business and a chance to create a new advertising and promotion vehicle.

In some ways that mix of value is true even for AT&T, whose DirectTV Now service primarily aims to generate direct subscription revenue, but also creates bundling opportunities for the rest of AT&T's subscription businesses, as well as an advertising opportunity.

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