Jim SparePresident and COO of Eko
Jim has spent his career growing disruptive tech businesses in the media and entertainment ecosystem. He currently serves as President & COO of Eko, a venture-backed company pioneering a new medium in which live action stories are shaped by viewer choices in real time. Eko also provides the leading tech platform for crafting and delivering this kind of serial, interactive, video entertainment, and partners with media companies, independent creators, and top brands to create experiences for engaged, digitally native audiences.
At Eko you are creating a new storytelling medium – tell us more about what you mean by that?
Eko is pioneering a new platform for storytelling by allowing viewers to shape stories as they’re being told. By giving audiences the opportunity to affect, control, and influence narrative live-action entertainment, our interactive original series are providing for a brand new way for people to interact with digital media.
How do you see interactive video changing the landscape for branded content?
We are finding that our seamless form of interactivity enables an entirely new kind of “branded content” that allows both the creator of original entertainment and the brand to EACH tell exactly the story they want to tell. This avoids the conundrum whereby a brand’s involvement can dilute a creator’s vision making an experience less successful, and a creator’s lack of flexibility in communicating a brand message can mute the value to the brand. By seamlessly inserting authentic and organic brand messages within interactive experiences (we call these “Sparks“), we solve this problem and thereby introduce a new kind of branded content where the brand message is delivered within content, but in a way that upholds the creative integrity and independence of the original entertainment.
Furthermore, because of their interactive nature, Eko videos measure an audience’s engagement within a piece of interactive content, providing analysis and insights into a brand’s target audience that is far beyond what is possible with standard linear branded content.
You have seen some interesting metrics around audience engagement and interactivity – what are some of the most interesting case studies here?
We consistently see engagement rates over 70%, showing that consumers do seek to actively engage in Eko experiences, especially when the choices have meaning within the context of the story and are not just trivial left/right choices. In addition, because consumers are naturally curious as to what would have happened if they would have made different choices, we consistently see retention rates of 200% – 300%, meaning on average a consumer will go back and play the entire experience again 2-3 times.
Eko’s interactive VR piece was at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival – tell us more about this piece and the experience of combining interactivity and VR
We see a huge opportunity to enhance VR as a storytelling medium by bringing the ability for the consumer to shape the story as it is being told. Broken Night, the first VR experience built on our platform, points to the future possibilities of greater immersion and control in VR through interactive storytelling in live-action video. Throughout Broken Night, the viewer has multiple opportunities to make choices that shape the way the story unfolds. At crucial moments in the plotline, the direction of the user’s gaze directs what happens next. These branches in the narrative unfold seamlessly, allowing for fluent storytelling while involving the user in the story. And the fact that the user has agency is itself crucial to the story.