Walmart has made a decisive step into the entertainment world with the announcement of two new deals. Vudu, Walmart's streaming service, will partner with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to create an original, short-form series to be piloted next year. In a separate deal, Walmart has also partnered with New York based startup, Eko, in a joint venture exploring "interactive storytelling".
Anonymous sources have told the New York Times that the deal with Eko involved an investment of $250m. If true, this would make it one of the largest investments into the interactive entertainment industry by any enterprise.
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In August of 2018, Amazon it was revealed that the tech giant was in talks to buy Landmark Theatres . Hence, this recent announcement by Walmart is in keeping with the two companies ongoing fight for retail dominance in the US.
However, instead of following a more traditional route into the entertainment industry as Amazon is with its attempt to acquire the cinema chain, Walmart is attempting to crack a relatively new medium.
Interactive storytelling is the cross point between traditional television and video games, giving the viewer greater control of where the plot goes. The different branches of possibility it offers viewers can lead to expensive production costs, so investors have been reticent to bet big on the format till now. Netflix also announced it would be entering the interactive niche with the premiere of the next season of Black Mirror.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Scott McCall, senior vice president for entertainment, toys and seasonal at Walmart, remarked: "We are not trying to become a studio. It is our hope that we will work with studios to reimagine what new content looks like."