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Netflix is breaking new ground today with the launch of its first ever interactive TV show. After months of speculation about the streaming giant embracing the technology, Netflix is officially putting viewers in control – specifically, young viewers.
Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale has been released worldwide today, giving kids the chance to control certain parts of the series, including its ending. The idea of viewers being able to move through a TV show themselves, in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure book, has been around for some time, with Netflix recently revealing that it was experimenting with the possibility. Now, it’s already rolling out its first attempts – and it’s teaming up with DreamWorks Animation to do it.
It’s a natural choice for the streaming service, not just because the summer holidays are coming out and kids will need entertaining for hours, but because animation is cheaper to produce, when it comes to creating multiple alternative versions of scenes and events.
“The children’s programming space was a natural place for us to start since kids are eager to “play” with their favorite characters and already inclined to tap, touch and swipe at screens. They also talk to their screens, as though the characters can hear them,” explains Carla Engelbrecht Fisher, Director of Product Innovation, in a blog post announcing the new format, which it calls “branching narrative” episodes.
“Content creators have a desire to tell non-linear stories like these, and Netflix provides the freedom to roam, try new things and do their best work,” she adds. “Being an internet-based company enables us to innovate new formats, deliver at scale to millions of members all over the world on multiple device types and, most importantly, learn from it.”
Indeed, each choice made by viewers will give Netflix the chance to analyses patterns and preferences on a new level – which choices or storylines will be the most popular? Will the mean bears or the friendly bears be more popular? Are members more compelled to rewatch and uncover all of the different storylines?
As well as DreamWorks, with whom Netflix has a long-standing deal, Netflix is also teaming up with American Greetings Entertainment and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios to develop the technology.
“While the mantra of our collaborations has been “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?”, the objective has been to bring something completely new to Netflix that pushes the boundaries of storytelling and the way you engage with it,” comments Fisher.
The boundary-pushing is not just a one-off, either: Puss in Boots’ branching narrative episode is the first of three new specials, with Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile released on 14th July and Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout scheduled for release in 2018. Titles will initially be available on most TV experiences as well as iOS devices. Any devices that do not support the technology will revert to a traditional, non-interactive version of the episode.
Here’s a nifty new video giving you a taste of the new tech:
Netflix working on choose-your-own adventure streaming
8th March 2017
Netflix is taking a leaf from choose-your-own adventure books to develop a new interactive form of streaming.
The technology, which recalls the page-turners of decades gone by, would allow viewers to decide how the story of the TV show they’re watching turns out.
The streaming giant has placed a growing emphasis on personalising its service, using previous actions and ratings to determine what titles to display on a user’s homepage, as well as even which covers to use to encourage them to click. Now, it’s taking that one step further by developing technology to allow viewers to decide what kind of story they get.
“Once you have got interactivity you can try anything,” CEO Reed Hastings told The Daily Mail this week.
In our recent review of Ultimate Beastmaster, Netflix’s new sporting competition series, we complained that we could not choose which national commentating team to watch. In the future, though, that interactivity could be commonplace, whether allowing people to navigate through a simple, linear narrative or produce something much more complex. Don’t like the way Orange Is the New Black Season 4 ended? Perhaps you could select a different outcome. Wish Princess Margaret did marry Peter Townsend in real life? The Crown could become a customised alternate history.
“We’re doing work on branch narratives so you are actually making choices as you watch. All the content will be there, and then people will have to get through it in different ways,” the source confirmed to the newspaper.
“We’ll see how it plays out. It’s an experiment. We’ll see if it gets much success. For creators, it’s new territory.”
For actors, too, the technology would mean having to record multiple plot strands and different takes on scenes in advance, so that all of them are ready to be selected.
“It is almost random – you could go through a story in incredibly weird ways,” added the source. “I can’t imagine what the story will be like but it’s highly fragmented.”
The site will begin its trial of the experimental tech this year with a kids’ series, which will reportedly be based on an established character. If successful, the approach would be rolled out to adult series. With a whole host of existing choose-your-own novels already on the shelves, the site certainly wouldn’t be short of material to adapt.
What would you like to see given the choose-your-own approach?
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