“Story is about Respect, not Disdain, for the audience.”
No one should ever get away with treating their audience with disdain or contempt. Above is a quote from story guru Robert McKee which is more important these days than ever because now the audience has real power to react – treat them badly and they will not only walk away but tell everyone else to do the same!
The Digital Revolution has had a profound effect on the way audiences choose and consume their media diets. The traditional media model of top down broadcasting and control – You Watch When We Want You To Watch – has gone. Audiences are disrupted, fragmented, scattered by the digital winds.
Here are a few examples of how Big TV is reacting to this seismic shift in power from Broadcaster to Audience.
“Book Him, Dano”
The CBS cop show ‘Hawaii Five-O’ has adapted an interactive element to its hit show, albeit a clumsy and rather basic one – three alternative endings. The audience of a soon-to-be broadcast episode can influence the ending by voting for the character they think committed the crime. The votes are counted and the winning ending will be broadcast to reveal the audience’s favourite perpetrator. The other two endings will be available to view on the broadcaster’s website.
Despite making UK television history there is still a sense of the broadcaster dictating to the audience. Given the endless online possibilities the creators could have developed for the series through the use of storyworld development techniques and transmedia storytelling, the three alternative endings route is a let down; how will it engage, inspire or compel an already loyal audience who may feel disappointed by a one episode only interaction? It feels like a tacked on gimmick rather than innovation. It is an opportunity missed rather than a faltering step in the right direction.
SyFy Channel’s new science fiction show ‘Defiance’ is altogether a much more interesting project; a hybrid of TV series and multiplayer online game. It is also a serious attempt at big budget transmedia storytelling.
This approach feels like it is on the right track. Everything seems to stem from a storyworld which allows the generation of varied story content and crossover opportunities. According to the makers, events in the game will impact on the TV series and characters from the TV show will appear in the game.
The BBC plans to put more programmes online before they get a slot in the regular broadcast schedules. The thinking behind this is to generate excitement and audience interest in new shows. I wonder if it will also be used to filter out content the audience DON’T LIKE. It could be a neat way of stopping unwanted content filling up the schedules. After all it is public money (our money) that funds programme-making so it makes sense we have more of a say in what we want to watch – like crowdfunding.
The other aim of this strategy is to increase the proportion of TV viewers who use the iPlayer. Maybe this has something to do with the rise and rise of online content providers like Netflix and LoveFilm. It certainly makes sense as the iPlayer and the BBC archive and how they are grafted together are key to the future success of the BBC.
From these few examples we can see BIG TV is making moves and implementing strategies to engage and inspire their audiences in new ways. It really is more than ever, all about the audience – More Power To You!