Walmart and Eko’s new joint venture, W*E Interactive Ventures, is poised to bring an exciting approach to entertainment to a much larger audience. We caught up with Yoni Bloch, the CEO of Eko, to learn more about the future of his company’s work with Walmart.
Q: For those who don’t know Eko, tell us about your technology and approach to interactive media.
A: Eko is a technology company leading the charge in interactive entertainment. We have over 15 patents that enable the creation, distribution, measurement and monetization of streaming interactive video. All these things come together as a storytelling platform that empowers participants to shape stories as they unfold.
Since 2010, we’ve created interactive content for major brands like Coca-Cola, Samsung, IKEA, Shell, Madewell and Red Bull. We’ve collaborated with artists like Coldplay, Carly Rae Jepsen, Aloe Blacc, Major Lazer and Bob Dylan.
More recently, we’ve ventured into interactive serialized entertainment. We’ve launched the comedy, That Moment When, with Sony and a reimagining of 1983’s WarGames with MGM.
With our Walmart partnership, we are excited to explore groundbreaking interactive content even further.
Q: What separates your interactive content from other entertainment sources?
A: There’s a vast landscape of entertainment sources out there; from Candy Crush to Game of Thrones to social media. They’re all valid and exciting mediums, but none combine interactivity with filmmaking.
Eko Originals are created by acclaimed Hollywood storytellers and game visionaries to harness the best of both of these worlds and give audiences greater participation than ever before. A viewer suddenly transforms into a participant creating an incredible sense of collaboration and complicity in the story itself. With our content, we suddenly have the “water cooler effect 2.0”: Instead of discussing the season finale, you’ll discuss what happened on your season finale.
Q: How do you envision Eko’s technology changing the ways that we interact with entertainment?
A: We all interact thousands of times a day. Every single person has a media playing device on them at all times (sometimes two or three). Texting, playing games, chatting—everything we do is interactive. And then video starts to play and...we lean back. Storytelling is the last medium to catch up.
But those days are over. The bandwidth is here, the hardware is here and now the software is here. Everyone’s ready to be a part of their stories, and we’re happy to give them these experiences.
We’re not changing the way we interact. We’re catching up to how we already do.
Q: Why are you passionate about audiences interacting with their media in this way?
A: Rather than sit back as passive viewers, interactivity empowers audiences to participate in stories. This drives deeper emotional connections with content, leading to unprecedented levels of engagement.
Depending on the interactive experience, participants could shape a protagonist’s decisions and personality or completely change the tone of the show—the possibilities are endless. You get drawn in when you make choices. You become more empathetic, more invested, more inspired.
Our belief is that interactivity should bring you closer to the feeling that your imagination is part of the story. Otherwise, interactivity is just a gimmick. And, we’re not a gimmick. We’re a powerful tool for self-expression.
Q: Talk about this deal with Walmart. What possibilities will this open up for Eko and Walmart?
A: This is the biggest investment to date in interactive video entertainment. It creates an unprecedented opportunity to develop premium interactive series but also to link commerce and entertainment in innovative ways that are entertaining and helpful.
By pulling in consumers to engage and shape their own personalized experiences, we are innovating far beyond the passive viewing experience of traditional digital video, branded or not.
Our partnership is part of a larger entertainment ecosystem Walmart is building. Through interactive content, Walmart will ultimately connect with its customers on a much deeper, more meaningful level. Through our partnership, we’re combining forces to bring the next generation of premium interactive entertainment to a diverse, mainstream audience.
Q: What can customers and viewers expect from this venture?
A: If you’re a gamer, your jaw will drop the first time you play a movie. If you love movies and TV, your jaw will drop when you realize you can be part of the story.
Everyone who participates in an Eko Original has the same reaction: “This is the future.”
From the moment you begin, you realize you’re on the cusp of an entirely new art form. By just participating in it, you’re part of it.
Passive entertainment isn’t going away. But interactive entertainment is here at long last. So, what can they expect? They can expect to have their minds blown.