The large network TV broadcasters like to remind us of what they do well. Live sports, the big moments, royal weddings and talent shows are all well-suited to live TV. But so far, the big SVOD players have not pushed the envelope on how they can also offer something unique and truly differentiated on their platforms. Interactive TV could be that response.
In 2017 Netflix started experimenting with interactive shows aimed at kids, launching with Buddy Thunderstruck and an episode of Puss in Boots. Towards the end of 2018, Netflix moved to the next level by launching the first full interactive series, Minecraft: Story Mode. And during the festivities, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch was unleashed, allowing adults to get in on the fun.
Minecraft works as a ‘choose your own adventure’ style story, allowing you to choose which character you are and what they say and do at each challenge. Two online series of Story Mode had already been created, so the concept is a familiar to the millions of Minecraft fans globally. To date five episodes have been created. I’ve had a play, and it was clunky, but fun. It rewards repeat play, and it will be interesting to hear what kids think about this. My one concern could be that the best days of Minecraft seem to be in the past. However, it is still a huge international franchise.
Netflix is looking at the gap between gaming and traditional TV shows and have clearly concluded that interactive viewing has a big future. Andy Yeatman, Head of Kids’ Programming at Netflix, commented at Mipjunior, Cannes in 2017 that kids were going back and replaying the same episode endlessly. That stickiness of content works perfectly for the Netflix revenue model.
For the adults among us, there was a grown up interactive treat in store this Christmas with the aforementioned Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Offering a far darker experience, we entered into an 80’s world of computer programming, obsession, madness and murder. Whilst plot and characterisation was light, there was fun to be had from replaying decisions to view the outcomes. The show worked on a meta level too, as we could tell characters they were being controlled by Netflix, and were left pondering in the end, were we ourselves being manipulated all along?
The shows themselves may not be perfect, but as an introduction to the power, and possibility of interactive TV, Netflix have shown the future might be somewhere between TV and gaming. Exciting possibilities lie ahead!