Development Roundup: Walmart invests in interactive content; Zak Penn's Beacon 23 lands series order

Contributed by
Oct 12, 2018, 7:50 PM EDT

There’s going to be some television coming from some unexpected places soon, as every company and its corporate overlord seems to want a piece of the ever-evolving digital space. That means whether they’re a cable provider or simply the biggest brick-and-mortar retailer on the planet, they’re going to be making SOME kind of TV whether fans are asking for it or not.

But thankfully, some is coming from a writer that’s proven his geeky bonafides; Zak Penn (Ready Player One, The Avengers, X2), has gotten another sci-fi project on his hands — one that’ll be taking him back to TV. Deadline reports that Penn, who also created SYFY show Alphas, will be adapting Hugh Howey’s bestselling Beacon 23. The story of a futuristic lighthouse keeper (space beacons serve the same purpose, effectively) with a troubled past already got a series order from Charter Communications’ Spectrum cable systems as one of its originals.

This is part of Charter’s play to join the big leagues of TV development, with this IP joining Bad Boys offshoot L.A.’s Finest, the other notable series announced by the service. But Bad Boys can’t hold a candle to space travel, that’s just science fact.

Elsewhere, according to The Wrap, there’s another new entry into the content sphere as Walmart has decided to start developing digital content with Eko, a company specializing in interactive commercials and TV.

“The content, which could include a range of offerings, from cooking shows to interactive toy catalogues, will go beyond the basic personalization available today, allowing viewers to participate in and shape stories as they are being told,” Walmart announced. “The result will be an experience unique to each participant, creating more engaged and emotionally-connected audiences.”

While Walmart is “not trying to become a studio,” according to Scott McCall, a senior vice president for entertainment, toys and seasonal, they do plan to “work with studios to reimagine what new content looks like.” That sounds an awful lot like the Futurama joke where the movie theater audience votes on the protagonist’s actions, but perhaps the mix of content will be more excitingly futuristic than silly.

This all goes to compete with the retail/content machine that is Amazon, which spurred Walmart to look into its own streaming service. With this recent, $250 million investment into its Eko partnership, Walmart is doubling-down on diversifying its services — though for good or ill remains to be seen. All it sounds like so far is that your targeted ads are going to get way, way more specific.