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TV and Movies

Walmart's Vudu is pulling Evangeline Lilly back to 'TV' for first time since Lost

Also, yeah, Walmart says it's a TV network now.

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Evangeline Lilly plays the Wasp in Marvel's Avengers universe. 

Marvel Studios

Walmart digital video service Vudu wants to become "America's favorite network," and it's tapping Evangeline Lilly to try. 

Vudu unveiled plans for original programming to run free with ads on its service, including the murder mystery drama Albedo starring Lilly. The project, which marks Lilly's return to "TV" since Lost ended in 2010, is among more than a dozen TV shows and films that Vudu has in its pipeline, with most set to premiere this year. 

The company made the announcements Wednesday at a so-called Newfront presentation to advertisers in New York. 

Vudu started as Walmart's online store for buying and renting movies online and redeeming digital copies of DVDs you purchased. But since then, the service has widened into licensing catalogs of TV and movies to stream free with advertising. Now Vudu is hopping on the original programming bandwagon, putting it in competition for your attention with the likes of Hulu, Netflix or Disney Plus -- not to mention regular TV. 

Vudu's originals will focus on four categories: early childhood entertainment, kids and family programming, content for coviewing, and what it's calling parents programming (basically, stuff for the adults). Albedo falls in that last category. 

Lilly stars as space detective Vivien Coleman, who is sent to investigate a scientist's death on an isolated space station on the edge of our solar system. Trapped and cut-off from Earth alongside the station's small crew of scientists/murder suspects, the show is said to morph from a classic murder mystery into a "fight for survival that may threaten the future of our species."

Albedo is being made by Brad Peyton, director of Rampage and San Andreas, and the writers of X-Men and Watchmen. Its eight 60-minute episodes are expected to premiere in 2020. 

Vudu also announced two unscripted shows for adults: Turning Point with Randy Jackson and a celebrity travel series with Queen Latifah called Friends in Strange Places. 

All three of those "parent" programs are slated to be released next year. 

Late last year, Walmart made an aggressive entrance into interactive video, investing a reported $250 million in Eko, a startup with a long track record in the niche format, and launching a joint venture with the company called W*E Interactive Ventures. Interactive TV is a format that's held promise for years as television migrated to internet-based streaming. For Walmart, it has the potential to unlock futuristic ways to entice shoppers to buy its products. 

Walmart said Wednesday that it'll roll out interactive content later this year with its Eko joint venture, designed to help families choose what to watch and how the stories they watch unfold. It'll also partner with its own virtual- and augmented-reality startup Spatialand. 

Vudu also said Wednesday that it would be streaming the first three episodes of Nickelodeon's reboot of Blue's Clues before it premieres on Nickelodeon itself in November.

Original titles Vudu announced included: 

  • Adventure Force 5, a live-action family adventure movie to premiere this year about a "ragtag band of technologically savvy kids must work together to outsmart an evil genius who is using dangerous alien-robot hybrids to hold their small coastal town hostage."
  • Variety's First Look, a weekly magazine-style show focused on entertainment new coming this year.