Walmart has held discussions with major media companies about including streaming entertainment in its membership service, according to three people with knowledge of the conversations, part of an effort to extend its relationship with customers beyond its brick-and-mortar stores.
In recent weeks, executives from Paramount, Disney and Comcast have spoken with Walmart, the people said, as the retailer ponders which movies and TV shows would add the most value to its membership bundle, called Walmart+. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.
It is unclear whether any of the streaming companies are inclined to reach a deal with Walmart. Disney operates the Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu streaming services; Comcast owns the Peacock streaming service; and Paramount runs the Paramount+ and Showtime services.
A Walmart+ membership, which costs $12.95 per month, includes free shipping on orders and discounts on fuel. It also includes a free six-month subscription to the Spotify Premium music service.
A spokesman for Walmart declined to comment.
As the streaming field gets more crowded, the biggest media companies have turned to giants in other industries to find new subscribers. Wireless providers such as Verizon and Bellevue-based T-Mobile have struck deals to offer their customers free or discounted subscriptions to streaming services like Disney+ or Paramount+ as an extra incentive to sign up. Media companies, in turn, receive an influx of new customers whose subscriptions are subsidized by their wireless partner.
The logic is similar for Walmart, according to two people familiar with the company’s strategy. The retailer is increasingly looking to build its relationship with its customers beyond the footprint of its big-box stores, particularly given the dominance of Amazon.com’s Prime membership program.
Walmart, with its thousands of stores frequented by millions of customers weekly, has long been a major center of gravity in the entertainment sector. The retailer’s power to sell music, movies and merchandise made the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, a destination for studio chiefs, musicians and entrepreneurs looking to court the company’s favor.
As consumption of music, movies and TV shows shifts online, Walmart has explored different strategies to retain its media primacy, including buying a streaming service called Vudu and investing in Eko, an interactive video company.
But the retailer has struggled to compete with some of its rivals in the costly video-streaming business. Walmart sold Vudu to Comcast’s Fandango in 2020, and the service has so far failed to capture as much demand as its largest competitors, according to the streaming data firm Parrot Analytics.