Walmart's Product-Picking Competition Goes The Reality-Show Route

In one of the stranger moves to come out of Walmart's (NYSE:WMT) west-coast labs, the chain has turned its "Get on the Shelf" competition into an online reality TV show. But there's a small reality problem: Even before the first episode went live on the web, ABC News reported on the completion of the competition.

The reason, of course, was that all five 15-minute weekly episodes—each featuring four entrepreneurs pitching their products to a trio of Walmart buyers—were filmed in a block, though they'll be shown weekly until through late October. After each webisode goes live, viewers will have 72 hours to vote for a webisode winner.

An ABC News crew was also there last week filming the competition to help increase publicity for the webisodes. And the last of three ABC News posts about the competition on Thursday (Sept. 19) ended with the words, "The winner of the Get on the Shelf contest will be announced tonight." Oops. A Walmart spokesman confirmed that no winner was announced before the webisodes went live.

In fact, no single winner could have been picked, since each week's winner won't be announced until votes have been counted, and only after products from the five individual webisode winners have been put on Walmart's website for customers to pre-order will Walmart be able to name a final winner—whoever drew the most pre-orders. That data won't be available until November at the earliest.

We're guessing the confusion came about because shooting five episodes of a reality-type show requires all the video the producers could possibly want. If later episodes were going to include the announcement of who won the previous week (which may or may not be how the webisodes will actually work), that "announced tonight" line would have needed to be shot in advance—even though knowing the actual winner was weeks or months out. That's reality-show business.

And considering that last year's audience-selected winners produced what turned out to be successful products, Walmart wants all the accurate customer data it can get. While Bentonville isn't about to lay off its buyers, apparently this crowdsourcing experiment actually works.

For more:

- See this ABC News story
- See the first episode

Related stories:

Walmart Promotes 70,000 To Fight Empty-Shelf Syndrome
Walmart Promotes Kid-Approved Christmas List
Walmart Breaks Apple's Hold On iPhone Pricing