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Variety reports that Walmart has invested $250 million in a joint venture with Eko, described as an “interactive video firm” that will “develop cutting-edge entertainment and advertising content that the retail behemoth hopes will drive more customers to its digital platforms.”

According to the story, the joint venture - dubbed W*E Interactive Ventures - will “develop a range of content for Walmart’s website and its Vudu video service. Some of that might be branded entertainment and advertising-oriented and some may be purely entertainment based. Eko is known for its innovative technology that allows users to select storytelling options as the content unfolds.”

The New York Times writes that “Walmart sees interactive storytelling - essentially a video version of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books- as something that can be used in both entertainment and advertising. There could be a cooking show, for instance, that helps viewers buy the ingredients online as they watch. Or a love story in which viewers can choose what happens to the characters. In turn, each choice could help Walmart glean insight into the viewers’ preferences and attitudes.”

Eko is based in both New York and Tel Aviv, with plans “to open a Los Angeles outpost to strengthen ties with Hollywood’s creative community.”

The investment comes the same week as Walmart struck a deal with MGM to have that studio create original content for Walmart’s Vudu video service, and the Wall Street Journal writes that “the moves are indicative of the growing competition between Walmart and Inc., which is investing heavily in video as well, in large part to lure potential customers to its platform.”

And, the Times writes that Walmart “has been seeking to expand its business beyond brick-and-mortar retailing. With most of the nation saturated by its big-box stores, Walmart has been experimenting with a flurry of new ventures, including starting a high-end concierge service in Manhattan and acquiring India’s leading e-commerce site, Flipkart. Now it’s turning to content creation.”
KC's View:
I have to admit that I’ve been a little skeptical of Walmart’s ability to have an impact with its entertainment ventures, mostly because I wondered if they’d be willing and/or able to really differentiate themselves with distinctive projects and approaches.

But then I read about this new deal, and it made me think a little differently. Maybe Walmart actually has some creative ambitions that go beyond simply having a platform to compete with Amazon and Netflix.

But then I read this piece in Advertising Age this morning:

The first original content out of the MGM deal will be a remake of '80s comedy "Mr. Mom," which starred Michael Keaton as a hapless stay-at-home dad whose wife goes back to the workforce. The premise will need some freshening up for a 2018 audience. A writer for pop culture site The Mary Sue asks whether it's wise to reinvest in the idea that ‘a man doing housework or raising his children is so abnormal as to be grounds for an entire comedy series’.”

Really? If that’s the best that Walmart and MGM can do, they’d better stop now.