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Entertainment

Walmart Wants a Platform, not Just a TV Company

The Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart is in talks to buy Vizio, a smart TV manufacturer with competitive prices focused on the US market. According to Parks Associates data, Vizio is the third bestselling brand in the US behind Samsung and LG, as of Q3 2023. Walmart already sells TVs under its private label Onn brand – so why is it looking at Vizio?

Walmart isn’t buy a TV hardware company, it’s buying a platform.

Walmart’s Onn brand currently use Roku’s operating system, a similar strategy to other TV brands like Sony, Sharp, and Toshiba that use Roku, Amazon or Google operating systems to power the TV. Vizio has its own proprietary smart TV platform, called SmartCast, and that’s increasingly where the money is. In fact, Vizio showed losses on TV unit sales in its latest earnings report but still grew revenue because of the subscription, advertising, and data revenues it generates through its SmartCast platform. As of September, Vizio counted nearly 18M SmartCast active accounts and ARPU generated by the platform was up 14% over the prior quarter.

The platform is the power position in today’s entertainment market – like the position the cable providers held for decades in controlling the cable box and the content that went into through it. Now, consumers access content primarily through their smart TV or streaming media player, and the platform that is powering those connected TVs is in control. Conntected TV platforms:

  • Control what content is distributed

  • Control where and how often content and apps are surfaced in the navigation

  • Control the app store for downloading streaming apps

  • Offer free, ad-based streaming channels and libraries that viewers can watch for free, with ads.

The platform players hold the cards these days, and Walmart wants to establish a stronger place in the entertainment market.

Additionally, advertising is becoming a much more critical component of the streaming ecosystem. 41% of US internet households now report watching free ad-supported streaming services in Q3 2023, up from just 31% the prior year. Vizio’s WatchFree+ has over 300 channels and viewing hours have more than doubled in the past 12 months. The advertising on the SmartCast platform and within the WatchFree+ FAST service is sold via its Vizio Ads unit, which the company formed in late 2019, so advertisers can reach audiences directly through Vizio.

Walmart is also becoming an ad sales powerhouse through its Walmart Connect ad business and third-party marketplace on Walmart.com. Walmart’s CFO has publicly stated the company’s goals to be far less dependent on brick-and-more retail sales and more distributed in its revenue streams through services and ad revenue.   

Finally, Walmart is thinking broadly about how it competes with the pervasive influence of the tech giants across many aspects of consumers’ lives. With its’ retail position, a TV platform, and its Walmart+ membership service (which includes discounts on gas, autocare, and travel in addition to free shipping), Walmart continues to expand its relationship with consumers, its data on consumer purchasing, entertainment, and lifestyle choices, and ability to drive big revenue in its ads business.

Parks Associates extensively covers the smart tv, streaming media, and broadband markets, as well as other key ecosystems in the connected home. For more information on our research, visit www.parksassociates.com or contact our team today at info@parksassociates.com.

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