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Comcast exploring acquisition of Vudu from Walmart

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Comcast Corporation is exploring a possible acquisition of Internet-based video rental company Vudu, according to a report.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday evening the telecommunications company’s NBCUniversal subsidiary is holding advanced discussions with Walmart over the streaming service.

Vudu launched in late 2004 as a television hardware company. Its primary device, the Vudu Box, allowed viewers to purchase movies from a handful of companies, then download and store them on a TiVo-like set-top box.

Five years later, Vudu pivoted away from hardware and started focusing on selling movies and TV shows direct to consumers, competing against Apple, Amazon and Google. It was acquired by Walmart in 2010 for $100 million.

In 2015, the company again attempted to sell its own hardware by offering the Vudu Spark, a $25 streaming TV stick that gave customers direct access to the service. Though the device came with a $25 Vudu movie credit, the gadget flopped due to its inability to integrate with other popular movie services.

The service has had some groundbreaking moments: It was one of the few services to allow customers the ability to convert their existing DVD and Blu-Ray library to digital copies, and was one of the first to offer movies in ultra high definition (UHD/4K). In 2016, it launched an ad-supported tier giving customers access to thousands of movies and TV shows for free.

Despite these advances, Vudu has never done much to move the needle for Walmart. Last year, tech news site The Information reported Walmart was exploring a sale of the service. Comcast was named as a potential suitor.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).