Fandango buys Vudu

We’re quarantined for the foreseeable future, and since many people are now spending more time than ever watching things at home, we’re paying extra attention to an acquisition announced today which might end up affecting how your digital library of movies and television operates. Fandango has just entered into an agreement to purchase Vudu from Walmart, which presents a number of interesting possibilities for the future. Let’s break down a few of them.

Vudu’s official blog (via Deadline) has an announcement about Fandango buying Vudu, so let’s take a look at what implications this could have for users everywhere.

FandangoNow Could Eventually Absorb Vudu

As of right now, all of the official messaging says that Vudu will not be shut down – it will apparently continue to operate, users will continue to have access to their libraries, promotion codes will still valid, and “nothing about your experience on any Vudu apps across devices will be different.” That’s good news in the short term, but I wonder if that decision will stick.

On the FAQ page, the question is posed if FandangoNow, FandangoNow, the streaming arm of Fandango, and Vudu are both going to remain separate entities. “Our priority is to ensure that Vudu customers and partners are given the highest level of service during this time of transition,” the answer reads. “So, there will be no immediate changes to either service. In the months ahead, we will explore ways to bring great online entertainment experiences to our valued customers.” Sounds like they’re leaving the door open for the possibility of making a change down the road, and if FandangoNow eventually absorbs Vudu altogether, that may cause some problems.

Right now, if you buy a movie on Vudu, it will be available there as well as services like iTunes, Amazon, Movies Anywhere, and FandangoNow – unless the film is from one of the few studios, like Paramount or Lionsgate, that are not participating in the Movies Anywhere consortium. So let’s say you bought Lionsgate’s La La Land on Vudu: right now, that’s the only service where your movie is accessible. If FandangoNow effectively shutters Vudu and absorbs that service, would that La La Land purchase port over? It’s unclear if they’ll go the extra mile to merge those purchases into a single library.

Will the Disc to Digital Program Survive?

Currently, Vudu has a disc to digital program which, for as little as $2 apiece and 100 times per year, lets users scan the barcodes of their physical media disks and receive a digital copy. (It costs $5 to upscale a DVD to HD.) This program helps Walmart because it motivates physical disc sales, but once Fandango takes ownership of Vudu, I can imagine it falling by the wayside. Fandango likely does not want to encourage the ownership of physical media, because they’re focused on ticket and digital sales. So if I were a Vudu user, I’d be scrambling to convert as many movies as possible just in case (and crossing my fingers that they figure out a way to port over purchases from all studios, regardless of whether or not they participate in Movies Anywhere).

Potential Benefits

FandangoNow is obviously under the same corporate umbrella as Fandango, the movie ticket purchasing site. Perhaps they could leverage that access point to their advantage and offer a synergistic deal, like purchasing a more expensive movie ticket from Fandango to see a film in theaters and then receiving a digital copy of that movie on FandangoNow (or Vudu, if they do end up keeping it alive). With the coronavirus pandemic changing the industry perception of theatrical windows (thanks in part to Trolls World Tour, which hails from NBCUniversal, the same company that owns Fandango), maybe the company could give folks an extra incentive by offering a deal for an upcharged theatrical ticket and granting access to a digital copy a few days before the rest of the world gets it.

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