Walmart is nearing the launch ofhas launched the Spark, an HDMI-connected TV streaming stick that shares some of the basic functionalities found in other devices in the category such as the Google Chromecast, Roku Streaming Stick and Amazon Fire TV Stick.
As first spotted by GigaOm, Walmart has recently launched a Web site for the new product, though there’s still no info posted there about how Spark will be priced. But to prime the pump, consumers who do snap up the Spark when it does go on sale will be in line for a $5 VUDU credit code each month for five months (for a total of $25)...at least until that promo expires on Sept. 1, 2015.
The site does offer some other details, noting that the product will be offered only at Walmart.com and “select” Walmart stores, that it will support up to 1080p resolution, require a minimum broadband connection of 1 Mbps, and come equipped with integrated 802.11n WiFi. The Spark package also includes and a remote control and a USB-based power cord.
It also appears, at least in the early going, that the Spark will limit access to the VUDU service, which lets customers rent and buy from a library of more than 100,000 movies and TV shows.
We’ve asked VUDU for more detail on what other content sources and apps might be offered down the line, but the user manual only features the VUDU service and walks through how consumer can link the Spark to link their existing VUDU accounts or create new ones. In fact, the VUDU app will automatically launch once it's connected to WiFi, according to the document, which makes no mention of any app or OTT service outside the VUDU universe.
If that’s the way things stay, then consider the Spark merely a vessel for VUDU and not much of a direct threat to any of the far more capable streaming sticks already on the market. But the $25-worth of VUDU credits is a nice perk that might entice some to jump on board, especially if Walmart decides to practically give the device away.
Update: A Walmart official confirmed that the retailer started to sell the VUDU Spark in about 2,400 Walmart stores last month. "It’s priced at $24.95 with $25 worth of VUDU credit, so it’s a low-cost way for our customers to access the latest HD movies and TV on VUDU in their living room," the official added in an emailed statement.
So, there you go. The five months in VUDU credits offered via the promo cover the bulk of the price of the device. And the base price of the Spark, which does include the remote, undercuts the typical sales price of the Chromecast ($35), Amazon Fire TV Streaming Stick ($39, with remote), and the Roku Streaming Stick ($49.99, also with a remote). Time will tell if Walmart makes the Spark a bit more attractive and less limited by expanding the amount of content and apps it can support.
Update 2: Blogger Dave Zatz visited Walmart over the weekend to buy a Spark and found that the in-store promo is a tad different than what the retailer is pitching online...$20 in VUDU credits in four monthly installments of $5. So, not quite as sweet, but the promo still covers the bulk of the hardware costs. And Zatz, who found the Spark with the DVDs and Blu-ray discs rather than next to other streaming players, offers a good history lesson on VUDU...I forgot they got off the ground in 2006 (pre-Walmart) with a dedicated device that sold for a lofty $400.