By Nandita Bose
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Walmart Inc <WMT.N> has signed a joint venture with Eko, a developer of interactive video content, to attract shoppers and boost customer engagement, and will invest $250 million in the venture as well as a funding round, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Scott McCall, senior vice president for entertainment, toys and seasonal (products) for Walmart U.S. confirmed the venture to Reuters in an interview but declined to comment on the investment amount.
With the venture, called W*E Interactive Ventures, Walmart and Eko will develop interactive content spanning toy catalogs to cooking shows, McCall said.
The move broadens Walmart’s entertainment offerings, which include its video-on-demand service Vudu and recently launched ebooks platform called Walmart ebooks. Earlier this week, the retailer signed a partnership with movie studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer to create content for Vudu and prop up the service’s viewership.
Eko has previously received funding from investors like Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital, the investment arm of Intel Corp <INTC.O>, Warner Music Group Corp, Samsung <005930.KS>, Walmart, and others, and has more than 15 patents for its technology.
Yoni Bloch, chief executive of Eko, will lead the joint venture, Walmart said.
Jane Rosenthal, who has produced films like Meet The Parents and Meet The Fockers, will be a strategic adviser, and Nancy Tellem, chief media officer and executive chairman of Eko, who was previously president at CBS Network Television Group, will be on the board of the venture, the retailer said.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)