It’s a trend that has been flitting at the edges of the entertainment industry for a few years now: the idea of interactive storytelling in TV and movies.
The concept was born of deeply immersive video games in which the players drive the narrative, but getting that concept to translate well into TV/movie programming has proved to be elusive. Until now, that is.
Netflix has already released a test show, “Puss in Book,” aimed at children, which allows the viewer to make up to a dozen decisions about what the characters do, with those decisions driving the shape and direction of the episode.
If you recall reading those “choose your own adventure” books as a child, this is very similar to that, except rendered on your Smart TV.
In some ways, it’s a radical concept, but in others, it represents a natural progression and a logical next step. After all, with the advent of apps and smartphones, just about everything is interactive, so why not TV shows too?
Of course, creating a TV show with a decision tree and multiple possible endings per episode is no trivial task, which is why we haven’t seen one until now. Netflix is pursuing the idea because they hope to create a strategic advantage, seeing that they are now facing fierce competition from Amazon Prime, a resurgent Hulu and others.
If they can nail interactive TV storytelling, they’ll have a compelling advantage that the other guys lack, and one that will be very expensive to replicate.
Note that the new format will only work properly on certain brands of smart TVs, where the decisions can be selected via the interface device for those products. If you watch the show on some other device (your computer monitor, smartphone, etc.) then after a set amount of time, the system will simply select a default choice for you in order to allow the story to proceed.
It’s unknown at this point whether the idea will catch fire, but Netflix is betting big that it will. Interesting times are ahead.