Forward-looking: If successful, interactive storytelling could take the industry in a whole new direction. Shows with multiple endings could increase engagement as viewers would be compelled to go back and re-watch an episode to seek a different path, thus boosting ratings. It also presents new challenges as it relates to actors and pay considering they’d be filming far more scenes than a linear project would require.
Netflix has been thinking a lot about the future of media and how engaged its viewers will or won’t be with its content. Last year, the company experimented with an interactive experience that allowed viewers to choose between branching narratives.
What’s different about those trials and upcoming projects is the target audience. Whereas last year’s shows were meant for children, Netflix’s latest work is being developed for a more mature audience.
According to Bloomberg, Netflix is planning to publish an interactive episode of Emmy-winning science-fiction series Black Mirror in which viewers will be able to choose their own story lines. It’s not yet clear just how complex the episode will be or exactly when it’ll debut although Bloomberg expects it by the end of the year.
Blending elements of video games with traditional TV is an interesting concept and the time has arguably never been better to try it given the widespread availability of high-speed Internet, mobile devices with touchscreens and the mainstream popularity of video games. As Bloomberg highlights, reality shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent have tasked viewers with casting votes to affect outcomes but no narrative-based show has tested the formula with any degree of success.