Walmart to bundle Paramount+ with its subscription plan

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Retail giant Walmart has signed a deal with Paramount+ to provide the entry-level plan of the streaming service to all of its Walmart+ members.

Walmart+ is a $98 a year service that gives subscribers access to discounts on gas and exclusive deals as well as free two-day shipping on eligible items bought online.

The service is widely seen as a direct response to Amazon’s Prime subscription offering.

With the addition of Paramount+ as part of the package, Walmart is moving its service closer in line with Amazon’s — and notably without the cost of launching its own streaming service and producing the original content that inevitably comes with most.

The deal also will give Paramount+, which is owned by Paramount Global, broad exposure to Walmart+ customers. Paramount+ remains one of the smaller players in the streaming wars. Rivals Peacock, HBO Max and Netflix also have deals in place with mobile and cable TV providers that give subscribers access to the streaming platforms at no additional cost, though in the case of Peacock, these users are forced to watch ads.

Walmart did not confirm the terms of its deal with Paramount+, but often agreements involve the partner paying the streaming service a per-subscriber rate at a significant discount — essentially allowing them to purchase subscriptions in bulk, though other deal structures exist.

Streamers like these deals because it’s a fast way to claim a large number of subscriber growth while also booking the revenue (despite the typically steep discounts). There are also inevitably people who never use the streaming service bundled with their plan, so these users don’t cost the streamer anything.

Streaming rights are complex, but streamers often have a cap of how much of the plan price they end up turning over to content owners, creators, crew and stars and some licensing agreements only call for payments if someone watches a particular piece of content.

Walmart+ subscribers will get the Paramount+ so-called “essentials” plan that includes tens of thousands of on-demand content, live NFL coverage, select live soccer coverage. However, this plan includes “limited” advertising and also doesn’t give users access to local CBS station streams, offline viewing, and expanded sports offerings.

Walmart says its service fee will remain the same, noting that the Paramount+ plan is worth an extra $59 a year. The two companies have had other partnerships for several years, including deals to sell co-branded merchandise exclusively in the Arkansas-based chain’s stores.

Walmart+ still isn’t quite on parity with Amazon Prime, however. Its free shipping typically only extends to items shipped and sold by Walmart and not third-party “marketplace” sellers. Walmart doesn’t directly list the number of eligible items on its site, but Amazon claims over 100 million items are eligible for free, fast delivery.

Prime members also get access to delivery options as soon as the same day (though this typically requires a small extra fee).

Walmart, however, throws in gas discounts plus a feature that lets customers scan items as they shop in-store and pay without having to scan each item individually at checkout. Users of both services also get access to select sales and products.

Walmart+ is also cheaper than Amazon Prime’s $139 a year price tag.

Amazon Prime, however, also includes free and unlimited photo storage plus access to select digital content via the company’s Kindle platform.

Walmart previously experimented with a DVD-rental-by-mail service similar to Netflix. That service was shut down as a separate brand in 2015, with Netflix, somewhat ironically, taking over the accounts.