Walmart Enters Joint Venture With Israeli Video Tech Firm Eko Founded By Yoni Bloch
Walmart, the US multinational retail giant, announced last week in a statement it has signed a joint video venture with Israeli-founded, New York-based interactive video content developer Eko. The joint collaboration, W*E Interactive Ventures, will be led by Israeli-born Eko CEO Yoni Bloch.
The retail corporation says the venture includes plans “to develop original, interactive content will enable Walmart to connect with customers in new and more meaningful ways, with the goal of driving deeper and more frequent engagement.”
Walmart will also invest $250 million in the venture, which includes a funding round, sources tell Reuters. Walmart has not disclosed details on the investment amount.
The joint venture expands Walmart’s entertainment ecosystem, the retailer says, which already has a significant presence through stores, website, the digital platform VUDU, and the Walmart eBooks platform launched with Canadian company Rakuten Kobo in August.
“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. By partnering with organizations across the industry to create original, interactive content, we’re bringing the next generation of entertainment to customers and delivering memorable experiences they can only find at Walmart,” Scott McCall, Walmart’s senior vice president for entertainment, toys, and seasonal, said in the statement.
Media outlets report it’s also a way for the company to compete with e-commerce giant Amazon and expand digitally beyond their physical shops.
Walmart’s plan is to develop a content range for its website, digital platform, and Vudu video service that hits on branding, advertising, and entertainment in an innovative way. Eko is known for its “interactive storytelling” with a video format that enables viewers to control and shape the content of commercials and television episodes as they are being told, with results that will be unique and engaging to each participant.
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The New York Times says the $250 million investment is thought to be “the largest bet on the interactive entertainment niche, which has long tantalized producers as a potential gold mine but has never gained widespread adoption.”
Founded in 2010 by Israeli musician-cum-entrepreneur Bloch with Barak Feldman, and Tal Zubalsky, media and tech company Eko enable production and web distribution of selectable and interactive multimedia video. In 2016, NoCamels reported that Sony Pictures Entertainment had invested in the video startup, then known as Interlude, for about $50-$100 million, according to sources.
Eko, with offices in Tel Aviv and New York, has raised a total of $36.5 million in five funding rounds, with the last one at $18.2 million in a Series C funding round at the end of 2015, from investors that include Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital, Samsung, Walmart, and more.
“The future of video entertainment is interactive, and this joint venture is a huge step towards bringing this future to life,” Bloch said, “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. We’re working alongside some of the most creative people from Hollywood and around the world, and we invite others to join us in making great interactive content.”
While led by Bloch, the venture will also have input from several industry experts including Tribeca Productions co-founder Jane Rosenthal as a strategic advisor and Nancy Tellem, chief media officer and executive chairwoman of Eko.