Fans Increase Network Pressure
The days of single-thread narratives are over—at least they might be for TV. In an age where fan demands are heard via petitions and Twitter pushes, showrunners and networks are subject to popular whim now more than ever. From BBC Sherlock fans who fought to lift the show’s ban from China, to the Wachowski’s Sense8 army whose outrage at sudden cancellation prompted a two hour finale film, television is no longer one-way street.
Over the past 20 years, television has seen an steep increase in dedicated fans. These loyal viewers are often so enthused about their favorite programs that they become de facto brand ambassadors. Often titling themselves “armies” or “squads,” these groups can be a shows biggest asset or in some cases, it’s biggest liability. Shows like The Walking Dead have come under major fire from fans who believed that fan-favorite Glenn Rhee’s death was unwarranted, prompting series-low ratings for the AMC breakout; similar patterns are observable in primetime shows like Supernatural, which has dodged cancellationdue to its loyal fanbase.
Even with a largely united fanbase it’s impossible to please everybody, and no brand wants to lose such loyal ambassadors to a something as minor as a plot twist or character event—enter the “Choose Your Own Adventure” model of television.
Is “Choose Your Own Adventure” TV’s Next Big Thing?
The concept is similar to Choose Your Own Adventure book where the viewer is the protagonist. They’re able to make character choices that will then path them along different scripted plots, eventually taking them to a variety of different endings based on their decisions. While this model has existed for years in video games and web series, the branched plot model had rarely been employed in television.
Netflix seeks to pioneer interactive TV, testing the concept with two new children’s shows. The first is DreamWork’s Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale; the second, Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile, both out on July 14. According to Netflix, the decision to begin with children’s programming was natural because “kids are eager to ‘play’ with their favorite characters.” When a multi-plot event occurs, viewers will be prompted to select one of two options on the screen, thus influencing the story,
If successful, these videos could spark a interactive choices in several of its other originals, includingHouse of Cards, Marvel’sThe DefendersandStranger Things. Giving fans the chance to shape their narrative could tap new demographics and attract fresh advertising opportunities for the streaming service.