Eko, an interactive TV startup that banked a reported $250 million investment from Walmart last year, dropped four new choose-your-own-adventure videos Thursday, with a couple of mini shopping experiences nested inside two.
Interactive TV is a format that's held promise for years as television has migrated to the internet, but it's largely remained on the margins as streaming has mostly stuck to traditional TV formats. So far, the biggest companies to experiment with interactive TV have been Netflix, HBO and, to a lesser extent, Comcast. Netflix introduced interactive episodes in 2017 with children's specials, and it widened the newfangled format to other genres in the last year with projects like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and a reality-adventure program with Bear Grylls.
Eko's new shows include:
- The Coop, an over-the-top parody of Big Brother-style reality shows that doubles as a satirical murder mystery.
- Wizard School Dropout, which riffs on a Harry Potter-esque premise of wizards living in the human world, but the protagonist is a broke washout of her wizarding academy and facing eviction for not paying rent.
- Epic Night, a rom-com following a quartet of friends on the last night of high school, which comprises 120-plus minutes of total possible runtime and has 12 possible endings.
- Timeline, a teen drama set in high school where the social-media feeds on the main character's phone are suddenly endowed with the ability to display future events.
The shows are available free at Eko.com and on the Eko app.
For Walmart, Eko has the potential to unlock next-generation ways to entice shoppers to buy its products. Two of the new Eko programs have tangential shopping elements nested inside them. Wizard School Dropout includes a story-within-a-story called The Sidequests of Gwendolyn Griffin, which lets viewers choose what Gwendolyn should buy to decorate her apartment and throw a housewarming party. Timeline gives viewers prompts to select fashion styles. Both eventually lead back to online shopping at Walmart, the world's largest retailer.