- With an eye to leapfrogging the streaming video competition, and especially Amazon Prime Video with shoppable ads, Walmart has entered into a joint venture with Eko, which develops interactive video technology for entertainment, according to a press release. It will be called W*E Interactive Ventures, and will be headed up by Eko CEO Yoni Bloch. Eko is a startup that specializes in "interactive storytelling," creating content that enables customers to participate in programming and commercials.
- Walmart is jumping into the venture with both feet, and will invest a reported $250 million in the venture, said Reuters. The deal was confirmed to Reuters by Scott McCall, Walmart's SVP for entertainment, toys and seasonal, who would not comment on the amount to be invested.
- This comes on top of news that Walmart will partner with MGM to produce programming for video streaming service Vudu, which Walmart bought eight years ago. The first title will be a reboot of the 1983 comedy "Mr. Mom" as a short-form digital series in early 2019, Yahoo! Finance said. In addition, the Walton family, through its holding company Walton Enterprises and its investment arm Madrone Capital Partners, was the lead investor in a $1 billion funding round for WndrCo's streaming service NewTV, which is led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, according to a press release.
Walmart's plans for its ad-supported, free streaming video service Vudu are starting to come together, and they include interactive programming, shoppable ads and big Hollywood names. Walmart has been involved in entertainment for a while, going back to the days when it stocked videocassettes, and later DVDs, of hit movies by the pallet load and built huge promotions around them. Now it is looking to make its mark in the digital environment, but instead of selling this content in stores, it will be using it to market its products and other retail offerings.
This is one among many high-profile moves Walmart has made recently in the digital world: the retailer is testing a "Jetblack" concierge and shopping service in New York City; it acquired Flipkart, the leading e-commerce competitor to Amazon in India; and launched Walmart eBooks together with Rakuten's Kobo, and will sell Kobo e-readers online and in stores.
Walmart hopes content from the joint venture will help it connect more meaningfully with consumers, while engaging more frequently and at a deeper level with them, according to the release. Eko has 15 patents for its technology, and previously worked with Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM Studios.
Some major names from the entertainment world will be involved in W*E Interactive Ventures like Jane Rosenthal of Tribeca Productions, who produced films like "Meet the Parents." Nancy Tellem will be on the board of the joint venture. She is the chief media officer and executive chairwoman of Eko, has spent over 25 years in television and was president of CBS Network Television Group, said the press release.
While Walmart plans to expand Vudu's offerings with an emphasis on family-friendly fare next year and introduce shoppable ads in the fourth quarter of this year, it does not plan to directly challenge big streaming services like Amazon's, Netflix and Hulu as was previously speculated. Netflix has 73% of streaming households in the U.S., while Google's YouTube has 50%, Hulu has 36%, Amazon has 28%, and Vudu has 13%, according to comScore data reported in the Wall Street Journal. The shoppable ads will not interrupt Vudu programming, but instead will send an e-mail with additional information to the viewer, said CNN Business.