Following on Monday’s announcement of a streaming video deal with MGM Studios, Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) on Thursday said it has entered a joint venture with Eko, a developer of interactive video technology. The venture will be called W*E Interactive Ventures and be headed by Eko CEO Yoni Bloch. Financial details were not disclosed, but The Wall Street Journal cited sources who said Walmart is investing $250 million in the joint venture. Walmart also has agreed to participate in Eko’s next venture funding round.
W*E plans to develop original, interactive content that Walmart plans to use to engage more deeply with its customers and increase their engagement with the retailer. Offerings might include cooking show and interactive toy catalogs that allow views to “participate in and shape stories as they are being told.”
A senior Walmart executive said:
Our partnership with Eko will help us accelerate efforts to deepen relationships with customers and connect with new audiences in innovative ways and is one part of an overall entertainment ecosystem we’re building.
Walmart acquired video streaming service Vudu in 2010 but the service has lagged well behind competitors like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Walmart-generated content will be available free (with advertising included) on Vudu.
Eko CEO Bloch said:
The future of video entertainment is interactive, and this joint venture is a huge step towards bringing this future to life. In 2018, all forms of media are personalized except for live action video. At Eko, our mission is to evolve past basic personalization and partnering with Walmart will accelerate that evolution.
Eko’s executive chair and chief media officer, Nancy Tellem, who has more than 25 years experience in the TV industry, also commented:
During my career in broadcast television, I’ve seen how traditional media has been transformed by technology, and have long believed that technology would be the key to creating more engaging entertainment experiences. Audiences are hungry for immersive entertainment and storytellers are embracing this new technology in creating a new type of story narrative that deeply engages the viewer.
W*E content also will be available at Walmart’s main e-commerce website, Walmart.com, and Eko has retained the option of taking the content to other social media platforms, according to the Wall Street Journal.