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Joint Venture with Intel-Funded Startup Eko Makes Walmart a Major Player in Interactive Media

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A screen capture from the Eko show, “That Moment When.” Eko is known for original programming that lets viewers decide how the actors onscreen should behave and react.

Walmart and Amazon are locked in a battle for retail dominance. Now the Arkansas-based giant has opened a second front, which analysts say could counter Amazon’s robust streaming entertainment business.

Walmart on Thursday announced a joint venture with Eko, a startup funded by Intel Capital and other blue-chip names. Eko will use its interactive video technology and ties to Hollywood studios to create cooking shows, toy catalogs and other content for the world’s largest retailer.

Eko founder and CEO Yoni Bloch called the deal with Walmart “the largest investment made to date in interactive TV,’’ a sentiment echoed in coverage by The New York Times and others.

Eko is known for original programming that lets viewers decide how the actors onscreen should behave and react.

Scott McCall, Walmart’s senior vice president for entertainment, said new content from Eko will “deepen relationships with customers.” Each choice made by viewers could provide insight into their preferences, enabling targeted advertising and interactive shopping.

McCall said Eko’s programs will be available on Walmart properties including streaming service Vudu, as well as on social media and other channels.

Bloch, a well-known rock musician in his native Israel, founded Eko in 2010 as Interlude. It’s headquartered in New York and Tel Aviv. In addition to Intel Capital, investors include Sequoia Capital, Warner Music and Sony.

With Intel predicting 5G networks will drive more than $1.3 trillion in new revenue for media companies in the coming decade, Eko’s leaders see opportunity ahead.

“5G makes everything work better, particularly as more and more media is going through wireless,” said Jim Spare, Eko president and COO. “It just accelerates and expands the ways in which consumers can enjoy interactive experiences.”

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