Walmart to invest $250m in JV with Israeli content co Eko

Yoni Bloch Photo: Tamar Matsafi

The giant US retailer is setting up the joint venture called W*E Interactive Ventures to develop interactive content to help it compete with Amazon.

Walmart Inc., the world's largest retailer, has announced a strategic entertainment joint venture with Israeli interactive video technology developer Eko. No financial details about the partnership were disclosed but "Reuters" and the "New York Times" report that Walmart will invest $250 million in the joint venture. "Globes" was the first to report last June that Eko was building the platform for Walmart.

Eko (formerly known as Interlude) was founded in 2009 by CEO Yoni Bloch, Tal Zubalsky and Barak Feldman. The company has offices in New York and Tel Aviv.

The joint venture, known as W*E Interactive Ventures, will be led by Bloch, with input from several industry experts. The platform will develop interactive content from toy catalogs to cooking shows.

Bloch said, “The future of video entertainment is interactive, and this joint venture is a huge step towards bringing this future to life,” said Eko CEO Yoni Bloch. "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.”

Eko is a pioneering interactive entertainment company that lets audiences shape stories as they unfold. Eko’s technology allows participants to affect, control, and influence interactive entertainment like never before. The company provides a platform for creating, distributing and monetizing interactive stories, and partners with media companies, independent creators and top brands to create deeply engaging experiences for audiences.

Walmart SVP entertainment Scott McCall 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. 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.”

The current deal with Walmart shows Eko's ability to again be flexible and find new ways to expand and grow in its business. What is it about Bloch's startup that interests Walmart? The answer lies in the enormous power of its great rivalry with Amazon. Walmart still trails behind Jeff Bezos's company in technology but has been trying to catch up in recent years. It is frantically searching for new technological tools in retail spheres and it now appears that it wants to expand to video, where Amazon has been operating for years.

Amazon's streaming service offers a broad range of content, including original series, and estimates are that it is planning to spend $5 billion on content creation this year. Its service has been active in Israel since 2016.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 11, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Yoni Bloch Photo: Tamar Matsafi
Yoni Bloch Photo: Tamar Matsafi
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