Vudu's 'Mr. Mom' Reboot Marks The Start Of Something Big

Normally, an unsurprising concept like a TV series reboot of the harmless 1983 Michael Keaton movie “Mr. Mom” wouldn’t make that much of a splash.

But from an industry standpoint, the new series is remarkable for several reasons.

First, it will be the first original content to debut (starting Sept. 12) on Vudu, the ad-supported streaming service that has been owned by Walmart since 2010.

As such, it’s a harbinger of Vudu’s plan to begin rolling out original content, geared to the “heartland” consumers (everyone between the coasts) who are Walmart’s bread and butter. Vudu also plans to focus on content that lends itself to viewing by families and other groups. And at least with the presumably kid-friendly “Mr. Mom,” it’s breaking the content up into digestible 11-minute episodes.

According to Bloomberg and other sources, Walmart is taking a moderate approach to content development — spending a few hundred thousand to a few million per title, as opposed to the many millions frequently invested by paid subscription-driven streamers. (Walmart is said to be offering a number of deal models, including co-ownerships in which Walmart and the studio would split the profits once advertising covers Walmart’s production expenses.)

Vudu, which had 25 million registered users as of last October, per Walmart, already offers 8,000-plus movies and TV shows, and a library of 150,000 TV shows and movies for rental or purchase.

Walmart previewed the initial dozen or so offerings during its first NewFront presentation in May, including a reboot of “Blue’s Clues” (to debut on Vudu before it airs on Nickelodeon), a science-fiction series starring Evangeline Lilly called “Albedo,” a family adventure movie called “Adventure Force 5” and new series from Randy Jackson and Queen Latifah.

The advent of original content represents an escalation of Walmart’s ambitious strategy to become a major player in the ad-supported streaming sector. And as all competitors know, it doesn’t pay to underestimate Walmart.

As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart has some very daunting advantages — starting with being able to offer transaction-based first-party data for ad targeting on a massive scale.

That alone makes Walmart a “sleeping giant of the digital entertainment space,” as Jeremy Verba, Vudu’s vice president, general manager, declared during the NewFronts.

“There is no one that has as many customers as we do every week -- there is no one that sells as much CPG as we do every week,” Verba pointed out. “Everything we’ve learned from our customers’ past purchases allows us to offer retail-informed targeting for advertisers at a national scale. Our customers are your customers, and we know a lot about our mutual customers.”

Vudu’s Audience Extension, which debuted in July, also uses third-party data from Nielsen and others to offer targeted, dynamic ad buys on Vudu and other streaming services on the network. The network reached more than 50% of U.S. households at launch, according to Walmart.

Sure, Amazon’s ad-supported IMDb TV also offers first-party transactional data for targeting, but word has it that Walmart is essentially matching its prices, while offering more data access.

The pièce de résistance, of course, is Vudu’s nascent offering of shoppable ads that are embeddable in its content. Viewers can use their connected TV remotes to click on small banner ads on their screens, which puts the product in their Walmart shopping cart. Once purchased, items can be shipped or picked up in a store.

Shoppable ads at scale, paired with transactional data and analytics that can offer insights on what types of products customers are likely to buy next, would be nirvana for many brands -- in particular, CPGs still struggling to target and accurately tie ads to sales performance.

Furthermore, brands are not unaware of the in-store advantages that might come along with partnering with Walmart on streaming campaigns.

All of this is likely to make a lot of media buyers eager to try the Vudu platform, even as the streaming options continue to proliferate.

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