Keeping audiences engaged in an ever-evolving, multi-platform world becomes more challenging with every technological step forward. Oh for those heady days when the height of entertainment was watching some bloke remember he’d seen a food mixer on a conveyor belt. Back when a peak time Saturday night show averaged 20 million viewers, the rules were simple. Sit back and be entertained. Now that we’re so adept at multi-tasking and can’t concentrate on any one thing for longer than 5 minutes, attention has become the holy grail. It’s no longer enough to settle for viewers just watching your programmes on one device, namely a TV set. All bases have to be covered. And they want their say too.
There’s no doubt that the future of TV broadcasting lies in its successfully integrating with other emerging and existing platforms. The key lies in finding the kind of content that works seamlessly in a multi-platform environment, thereby drawing the viewer in naturally. The reason a number of TV programmes have been able to successfully incorporate the use of Twitter into their shows, is because people were already using it as a means to comment and air their views with others. Also, with broadcasters still struggling to earn sufficient advertising revenue, thinking creatively and treading other paths of the cross-platform route has never been more important.
2010 has certainly seen significant advances in the way content is delivered and particularly in the way Television has begun to embrace cross-platform. Here are some observations on what seems to work.
1. Make it light, frothy and fun, and don’t let it take itself too seriously. Let’s hear it for The Only Way Is Essex. A downloadable app (Essex Spa) allowing the user to give themselves an Essex-style, tan-tastic makeover and a QR code transmitted onscreen, allowing iPhone users exclusive access to additional content. All nicely packaged.
2. Give the viewer an opportunity to control what happens in the show. Channel 4’s experimental reality show Seven Days brings us the ChatNav. Although the show struggled in the ratings and wasn’t considered a roaring success, the idea of giving the audience involvement in the show’s storyline was an admirable one. Perhaps a case of ‘another time, another place?’
3. Encourage the audience to experience the emotions of those they are watching thereby ensuring deeper involvement. This works best with gameshows. Offering the opportunity to play along certainly contributed to the success of The Million Pound Drop Live as over 1 million people did, with virtual money of course. #millionpounddrop even managed to trend No. 1 worldwide on Twitter. Result.
4. The Use of Twitter. In terms of viewer feedback and interaction Twitter is pure gold, offering ‘free’ instant reaction en masse. That hashtag has crept into a number of shows this year including Have I Got News For You, Deal or No Deal and This Morning.
But what of the future and the direction TV is heading?
1. Surely the time is ripe to capitalise on the extraordinary growth and diversity of the smartphone. How about a gameshow utilising GPS, Apps and call communication?
2. We’ve had interactive dramas like Kate Modern play out online, but so far it’s unexplored territory on terrestrial TV. With the upcoming roll out of various connected TV services, it could provide a new angle on the drama & soap genres.
3. With a proliferation of gadgets and technology at our fingertips and the popularity of user-generated content sites like YouTube, it’s only a matter of time before viewers begin creating their own TV shows? IPTV could even offer up the possibility of a dedicated channel for such content.