During today’s NewFront event, Vudu, the digital entertainment platform Walmart acquired in 2010, proved it is making good on at least two of its NewFronts West promises from last fall, including a TV series based on the 1983 movie Mr. Mom, and shoppable ads, which have so far been used by brands including P&G and Hershey’s, as well as other undisclosed beta partners.
Vudu added a free video streaming service in 2016, but it still doesn’t have the same name recognition as some of its peers. Jeremy Verba, vice president and general manager of Vudu, even called the streaming service the “sleeping giant of the digital entertainment space.”
Executives at the NewFront event—held at New York’s Altman Building—were eager to reinforce Vudu’s ties to retail giant Walmart, and its first-party data from the 95% of U.S. households that have shopped at a Walmart in the last year.
And, in addition to TVOD, or transactional video on demand, they said Vudu is pushing further into AVOD, or ad-supported video on demand.
In what he called “retail-connected premium TV,” Scott Blanksteen, vice president of product, AVOD and TVOD at Vudu, said the shoppable ads Vudu teased last year—and which he also discussed in an Adweek cover story about AVOD earlier this month—are becoming a reality. These shoppable ads pop up onscreen and customers can add featured products to their carts with a single click—and without missing any programming.
And, because Walmart knows shopping behaviors, the ads are dynamic based on viewer preferences like flavors—so, for example, customers who typically order watermelon Twizzlers would first see the option to purchase watermelon instead of cherry.
Blanksteen also announced the Vudu Audience Extension in collaboration with Walmart Media Group, which will partner with other OTC providers to measure ad performance. Initial partners include brands like P&G, Hershey, Sony, Hallmark and Energizer.
In fact, Stefanie Jay, vp and general manager of Walmart Media Group, said Vudu can deliver brand messages to almost any device—and can actually tell advertisers if the customer who saw the ad made a purchase online or in-store.
According to Blanksteen, Vudu allows customers to either buy or rent titles for free, which means the latter is actually opting in to watch ads.
And, citing research from Deloitte that found consumers think eight minutes of ads an hour is “just right,” he said Vudu works with brands to manage ad volume and provide relevant, curated ads customers actually want so they can—wait for it—save money and watch better. After all, Blanksteen said, Walmart’s credo is to find where customers are paying too much for a bad experience and provide a superior alternative.
For example, Julian Franco, senior director of Vudu, said when you watch a 90-minute movie on cable, it can actually be as much as three hours long with commercials, but it’s just 100 minutes on Vudu.
And, Franco said, Vudu is adding 12 original shows based on insights from what Walmart customers browse, rent and buy, targeting early childhood, kids/families, co-viewing and parents.
“Winning with kids is winning with mom,” Franco added.
After announcing a modernized Mr. Mom last year, Franco shared details about the production, which will be more of a continuation story focusing on the daughter from the original as an adult navigating the trials and tribulations of modern parenthood.
“It’s funny and touching—anyone with kids will love it,” Franco said. “It’s a softball down the middle for us.”
Thanks to a partnership with Nickelodeon, the Blue’s Clues revival Blue’s Clues & You will premiere on Vudu prior to anywhere else. Franco also previewed a new original show targeting families called Adventure Force 5, which is about a group of tech-savvy kids in a small town who must band together to save humanity from an evil genius and his robot hybrids.
Vudu also has a choose-your-own-adventure-type partnership with interactive video company Eko that allows viewers to choose how storylines unfold. And, Franco said, Vudu will also partner with Spatialand, the portfolio company of Walmart incubator Store No. 8 which focuses on VR and commerce, to “deepen connections to stories.”
For parents, Vudu has two unscripted series with road trips: The first, Turning Point with American Idol alum Randy Jackson, follows his cross-country trek to talk to people about the turning points in their lives and will debut in early 2020; and the second, Friends in Strange Places, features Queen Latifah and her friends going on adventures around the U.S.
Vudu is also working on an original drama, Albedo, starring Evangeline Lilly as a detective in what Franco called a “genre-bending crime thriller 150 years in the future.”
Finally, Vudu is partnering with media company Variety on an entertainment program called First Look, which will debut in the fall.