NBCUniversal in Talks to Buy Walmart’s Vudu

Todd Spangler

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Comcast’s NBCUniversal is looking to add some Vudu into its streaming-video mix.

The media conglomerate is in talks to buy Vudu, the Walmart-owned entertainment rental, download and free-streaming service, sources confirm to Variety. It’s unclear what the terms of the pact would be or the timing. News of NBCU’s interest in Vudu was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

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The speculation is that NBCU would merge Vudu with Fandango Now, the online-video transaction site that’s part of ticketing service Fandango (after it bought M-Go in 2016). It 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”).

NBCU declined to comment.

Asked for comment, a Walmart rep said, “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.” Word that Walmart was shopping Vudu surfaced last fall in a report from The Information.

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).

Meanwhile, Comcast had been in talks to acquire Xumo, a free, ad-supported streaming service owned by Panasonic and Meredith Corp., the Journal reported in December.

Vudu says it currently offers over 10,000 titles for free, plus some 150,000 titles to rent or buy including new releases in 4K Ultra HD. The division largely has maintained distinct operations from Walmart. Vudu is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., while the retailer’s Walmart.com and e-commerce teams are based in San Bruno (next to YouTube’s campus). Vudu is headed by EVP and general manager Jeremy Verba, the former CEO of eHarmony who joined the company in 2014.

Founded in 2004 as a venture-backed startup, Vudu initially launched with its own set-top box that downloaded movies over the internet for local playback. In its early days, Vudu focused on delivering high-quality digital formats, including its own proprietary “HDX” format.

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