Netflix experiments with viewer-led interactive storytelling

Digital Originals

Imagine not just passively watching your favorite program on television or online, but dictating the narrative and the outcome of that program. That’s what interactive content is all about and it’s a growing trend in entertainment so much so that Netflix is ramping up efforts. CGTN’s May Lee has more.

If you want to know how to create an interactive television show, ask Sandeep Parikh. He created the cutting edge series “That Moment When” for storytelling platform Eko, which focuses on interactive content.

“I always say when people ask me what’s “That Moment When” I say, imagine if you’re watching “Friends” but you have control over Rachel” says Parikh, “and you can decide if she kisses Ross or slaps him in the face and the story takes off from there, from your choice. How cool is that?”

So cool that companies like Netflix are jumping on the interactive bandwagon and developing a slate of specials that will let viewers choose storylines in real time, which is exactly what Parikh achieved with his series.

Throughout the show, viewers are asked to make choices that affect the storyline. For example, at one point a character asks his friend what is different about him. The viewer is given three choices, a hat, a scar or a pin.

Whichever choice the viewer clicks on screen is the direction the storyline will take.

For Parikh, one of the many challenges in creating an interactive program was and continues to be developing the technology that allows for seamless interactivity.

“The biggest hurdles for us was that there was no established format so we were inventing not just the show itself but the format for what would be a satisfying interactive show. It’s gotta feel intuitive and right for this format so that was really tough and that was just a lot of experimentation ultimately.” says Parikh.

And production, too, is much more complex with interactive content. Instead of one scene with one story line, multiple scenes with multiple outcomes have to be shot.

But from a monetary perspective, this allows advertisers to interact with potential consumers in multiple and more personal ways.

Kayla O’Leary of Mindshare Digital Investment says, “Personalization is more and more important for brands with the proliferation of information available in the online space. It’s important to cut through the clutter and be really relevant to the consumer and produce content that they want to engage with and that they can make personal to them.”

And companies are putting their money where their mouth is. Walmart just invested $250 million dollars in Eko to create more interactive programming.

CGTN’s May Lee reports.