Interactive content is coming to Walmart’s Vudu & the BBC

Netflix’s early experiments with interactive content may not have always hit the mark. Its flagship effort on this front, “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” was a frustrating experiment — and now, the subject of a lawsuit. But the industry has woken up to the potential of personalized programming. Not only is Netflix pursuing more interactive content, including perhaps a rom-com, others are following suit with interactive offerings of their own, including Amazon, Google — and now, it seems — Walmart and the BBC.

A couple of months ago, Amazon’s e-book division Audible launched professionally performed audio stories for Alexa devices in order to test whether voice-controlled choose-your-own-adventure style narratives would work on smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo.

YouTube is also developing interactive programming and live specials, including its own choose-your-own-adventure-style shows.

Now, according to a new report from Bloomberg, Walmart is placing its own bet on interactive media — but with an advertising-focused twist. Through its investment in interactive media company Eko, Walmart will debut several new shows for its streaming service Vudu that feature “shoppable” advertisements. That is, instead of just seeing an ad for a product that Walmart carries, customers will be able to buy the products seen in the shows, too.

Bloomberg’s report is light on details — more is expected at Walmart’s NewFronts announcement this week — but Eko has already developed ads tied to interactive TV where the ad that plays matches the emotion of the viewer/participant, based on their choices within the branching narrative. It also created ads that viewers click their way through, seeing different versions of the ad’s story with each click.

And today, the BBC announced it’s venturing into interactive content for the first time, too.

As part of its NewFronts announcements, the broadcaster unveiled its … Read the rest

WeWork files confidentially for IPO

WeWork, the co-working giant now known as The We Company, has submitted confidential documents to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering, the company confirmed in a press release Monday.

According to The New York Times, the business initially filed IPO paperwork in December.

WeWork, valued at $47 billion in January, has raised $8.4 billion in a combination of debt and equity funding since it was founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in 2010. WeWork is among several tech unicorns with hundreds of millions, billions actually, in backing from the SoftBank Vision Fund. Recently, the Japanese telecom giant eyed a majority stake in the company worth $16 billion, but cooled their jets at the last minute.

WeWork doubled its revenue from $886 million in 2017 to roughly $1.8 billion in 2018, with net losses hitting a staggering $1.9 billion. These aren’t attractive metrics for a pre-IPO business; then again, Uber’s currently completing a closely watched IPO roadshow despite shrinking growth. Here’s more from Crunchbase News on WeWork’s top line financials:

  • WeWork’s 2017 revenue: $886 million
  • WeWork’s 2017 net loss: $933 million
  • WeWorks 2018 revenue: $1.82 billion (+105.4 percent)
  • WeWork’s 2018 net loss: $1.9 billion (+103.6 percent)

On the bright side, per Axios, WeWork established a 90 percent occupancy rate in 2018, with total membership rising 116 percent to 401,000.

WeWork is often referenced as the perfect example of Silicon Valley’s tendency to inflate valuations. WeWork, a real estate business, burns through cash rapidly and will undoubtedly have to work hard to convince public markets investors of its longevity, as well as its status as a tech company.

WeWork is backed by SoftBank, Benchmark, T. Rowe Price, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs and several others.

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Overcast makes it easy to turn clips from podcasts into viral clips

The popular iOS podcasts app Overcast wants to make it easier for people to share across social media clips from their favorite shows. The feature will likely be well-received by podcasters looking to expand their show’s audience, as they’ve previously been limited to sharing their podcast by way of links or audio-only snippets, for the most part. Overcast’s solution, meanwhile, allows anyone to share either an audio or a video clip from any public podcast, the company said in an announcement.

That means a show’s fans can get in on the action — giving their favorite podcast a viral boost by promoting it on social media, where it could reach new listeners.

To use the clip-sharing feature in Overcast, you first tap on the “share” button at the top-right corner of the app. You can then pick either an audio clip or a portrait, landscape or square video. In the clip-editing interface that appears, you can locate and select the audio clip you want to share. Clips can be up to one minute in length, the company says.

The variety of video formats is designed to appeal to those tasked with marketing a podcast across social media — including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat — where the supported video aspect ratios may vary. In addition, podcast marketers will be able to remove the Overcast branding from their shared clip to give it a more professional feel.

Overcast’s new feature competes with existing tools for marketing audio across social media — like those from Wavve, Headliner, Spotify-owned Anchor and others, including, perhaps, SoundCloud. Some of these services offer captions, as well, which podcasters may prefer to Overcast’s clips.

But unlike other rival … Read the rest

Founders, apply today for our free startup programs at Disrupt SF

As spring takes its sweet time rolling across the northern hemisphere, October may not be the first thing on the minds of early-stage startup founders. But it should be. The experience that is Disrupt San Francisco 2019 takes place October 2-4, and now is precisely the time to make a move that could change the trajectory of your business.

We’re searching the world over for an elite fleet of outstanding early-stage startups to participate in two of our most exciting programs — TC Top Picks and Startup Battlefield. We’ve made it easy for you — fill out one application to be considered for both opportunities.

If your startup is selected as a TC Top Pick company, buckle up for a wild ride at Disrupt. Highly discerning TechCrunch editors review every application and will ultimately select up to five early-stage startups to represent each of the following tech categories: Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Gaming, Investor Topics, Media, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, SaaS, Space and Social Impact/Education. This cadre of top-notch startups each receives a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package which, among other things, includes a prime location on our exhibition floor. In a classic “but wait, there’s more” moment, you’ll also receive VIP treatment and an inordinate amount of attention from investors and media — because everyone wants to meet the TC Top Pick startups.

Take it from Jana Rosenfelder, co-founder of Actijoy, who had this to say about her TC Top Pick experience at Disrupt SF 2018:

Being a TC Top Pick was a real door-opener because the media paid so much attention, and it made a big impression with people who visited our booth. It gave us more credibility, and everyone listened to us.

Startup Battlefield is TechCrunch’s premier startup competition and bastion of media … Read the rest

Talk key takeaways from Facebook’s F8 with TechCrunch writers

Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference is taking over the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose this week and TechCrunch will be on the ground covering any and all announcements.

The week is sure to have its fair share of fireworks as the company’s top brass takes the stage to talk about the future of Facebook’s product offerings, privacy, developer tools and more. TechCrunch’s Josh Constine and Frederic Lardinois will be on the ground at the event. Wednesday at 2:00 pm PT, Josh and Frederic will be sharing with Extra Crunch members what they saw, what excited them most and what the future of Facebook might look.

Tune in to dig into what happened onstage and off and ask Josh and Frederic any and all things Facebook, social or dev tools.

To listen to this and all future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free.

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