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Video Streaming Could Be Key To Walmart+/Amazon Prime Rivalry

is looking to add video streaming as a perk for joining its Walmart+ subscription plan, according to numerous reports.

“Yes, yes, yes!” wrote RetailWire BrainTrust member Kai Clarke, CEO of American Retail Consultants, in an online discussion about the development on RetailWire last week. “Walmart needs to model itself after Amazon

Prime to get a true portion of the market. Otherwise, why would anyone want to purchase a Walmart+ membership for just a few dollars less? Amazon gives you free two-day shipping, plus Amazon Prime Video, plus access to all of its electronic devices, Kindle books, etc.”

The retailer in recent weeks has held talks with executives at Comcast
, Disney and Paramount as it assesses what types of programming would be best received by its subscribers.

It is unclear what level of interest the streaming companies would have in such a relationship. Comcast owns Peacock, Disney offers Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, and Paramount operates Paramount+ and Showtime.

“It would be interesting, and another player in the streaming pot,” wrote Ananda Chakravarty, vice president of research at IDC. “Now if they can pull off a deal with Netflix
, Hulu, Disney and Paramount — they would corner the market. Without its own studio, it won’t matter much so long as the partnerships are well known, but the relationships will be costlier.”

“Well, it’d be fine if they offered an existing service, but to build their own?” wrote Paula Rosenblum, co-founder of RSR Research. “I think that ship has sailed. A deal with — maybe Disney — would be the best idea.”

Walmart+ memberships, which cost $98 annually or $12.95 monthly, offer free same- and next-day delivery of groceries and other products from local stores. Subscribers also get free shipping from Walmart fulfillment centers with no order minimum.

Members can fill up with discounted fuel at Walmart, Murphy Oil
, Exxon and Mobil stations. They also gain access to Sam’s Club pumps and pricing at clubs. Walmart+ members use the retailer’s mobile app to access Scan & Go for contact-free checkouts when shopping in the chain’s stores.

For some experts on RetailWire’s BrainTrust, adding an entertainment offering to the deal stood to give the bundle a big boost in value.

“The news of any future entertainment partnership would land right now because more families are evaluating where to cut costs,” wrote Tara Kirkpatrick, mobile trend analyst at Apptopia. “All it would take is families realizing that Amazon Prime Video is NOT their sole source of entertainment (which I would be curious to see data on) and that Walmart+ offers more convenient and cheap grocery solutions for the switch to be compelling. Prior to this news, there was evidence that Amazon is feeling the threat of Walmart+ in its expansion of Amazon Fresh stores this year.”

“It also doesn’t matter if they’re a follower here, it’s still accretive to Walmart+ and it diminishes any special features that rivals offer,” wrote Mr. Chakravarty.

Walmart has added a free six-month Spotify trial membership as a recruitment tool. Last month it announced that Walmart+ members could gain access to its InHome delivery service for an extra $40 per year or $7 a month added to their subscription plan. InHome members, who pay $148 a year for the service, can now become Walmart+ members and get the service for $138.

The retailer’s interest in adding a streaming service or services to its Walmart+ plan is a clear response to rival Amazon.com, which offers free Prime Video as part of its $139 annual subscription plan and $14.99 monthly option.

Walmart’s talks with Comcast, Disney and Paramount are not the first time that it has looked at streaming as a means to gain market share. The retailer acquired Vudu in 2010 and sold it a decade later to Fandango.

“Walmart used to own its own streaming service, Vudu, and was not successful,” wrote Brian Delp, CEO of New Sega Home. “I think aligning with an already solid partner is a smart move. It positions its membership with similar benefits to Amazon, who offers Prime Video. They’re very focused on competing against Amazon, but hopefully they also consider more innovation versus matching in future strategies.”

But for BrainTrust member Dion Kenney, COO of Mondofora, moving into streaming was a me-too too far for a chain with strengths in other areas.

“Effective strategy is not based on ‘what’s the other guy doing?’,” wrote Mr. Kenney. “It’s based on ‘what resources do we have or can we get, and how do we best deliver value?’ Amazon’s enormous server farms and database technology prowess makes content streaming a reasonable use of powerful resources. Walmart’s strengths, while prodigious, have historically been in logistics, inventory management, and vendor management. It is not easy to see how this lends itself easily to a streaming service model.”