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story.lead_photo.caption The Vudu application is displayed on an Apple iPhone in Washington, D.C., on March 27, 2018. MUST CREDIT: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Original TV programming being developed by Walmart Inc.'s digital streaming service, Vudu, will include interactive content and incorporate technology that lets viewers buy products featured on the shows.

Vudu revealed its plans Wednesday at the NewFronts digital media conference in New York.

NewFronts, held each spring and fall, provides a forum for digital media companies to pitch new opportunities to online advertisers. This week's presenters include Hulu, Twitter, YouTube, Viacom, The New York Times and Target Media Network.

Walmart acquired Vudu in 2010. The video-on-demand service offers more than 150,000 titles through licensing agreements with major television and movie studios.

Unlike competitors such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, Vudu doesn't require a subscription. Instead, viewers can rent or buy content, or watch free movies and TV shows on its ad-supported Movies On Us service.

After Vudu's presentation, the company said on its blog that it has created Vudu Audience Extension, "our instant-scale, retail-connected audience extension media network."

"We're partnering with other [streaming] services to be able to identify, target, and measure sales performance with regard to our Walmart customers wherever they're watching, not just on Vudu," blog author Scott Blanksteen said. "This means that our customers get relevant ads wherever they are and that our advertisers will get the benefits of first-party, deterministic data, from the living room through to the purchase point. ... It's retail-connected advertising at the scale of Walmart."

Blanksteen, who chief operating officer and head of product at Vudu, said the company will release the names of the other partners in the initiative over the next few months.

The blog did not address Vudu's "shoppable" ads, but according to TechCrunch's reporting on the presentation, Blanksteen said the service is already testing them. The ads allow viewers to buy featured products though a pop-up window, Blanksteen said, and will change based on viewer preferences.

Other streaming services also are looking at ways to reap advertising dollars. On Wednesday morning, Hulu said it's starting a new "binge ad experience," aimed at viewers watching back-to-back episodes of a show in one sitting. Brands can place ads that Hulu called "situationally relevant" to these viewers. The company said it will release more specifics about this format later this year.

In Vudu's presentation Wednesday, senior director Julian Franco revealed some of the new shows that will be coming soon to the streaming service. He reportedly confirmed some will be interactive programs developed with Israeli tech firm Eko. Franco played a video clip that said the interactive content will include comedies, dramas, thrillers and other genres.

Franco gave more specific descriptions of the non-interactive content in the works. This includes Albedo, a futuristic crime thriller starring Evangeline Lilly from the TV series Lost, planned for 2020. Vudu also is making a kid-friendly movie, Adventure Force 5, with the visual effects team from the HBO hit Game of Thrones.

Vudu's unscripted programming includes Friends in Strange Places, a travel show hosted by Queen Latifah, and Turning Point with Randy Jackson, billed as "an exploration of the artistic journey of some of the most creative minds in America."

In all, Franco said Vudu will premier about a dozen original series and movies this year. He said Vudu will differentiate itself from other streaming services by focusing on family-friendly programming.

At last fall's NewFronts in Los Angeles, Walmart announced a partnership with MGM to create TV series based on the studio's film and television franchises. Vudu said at the time that the first of these will be based on the 1983 film Mr. Mom. A Walmart spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the series is still planned, though no other original programming has been announced under the MGM partnership.

Business on 05/02/2019

Print Headline: Walmart details streaming service

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