As the battle for eyeballs heats up and the SVOD market swells, we ask, is Netflix's latest move into interactive TV - by letting viewers choose their own adventure - a gimmick and good PR? Or does it undermine the creative process to a point that it wouldn't make sense for linear series?
Speaking to AdNews, ex-head of digital marketing at Foxtel turned founder of Comparetv.com.au, Oliver Mistry, says Netflix's move into “choose your own adventure” is interesting, but not for everyone.
Mistry's comments follows news out that the new season of Netflix's original series, Black Mirror, will feature a new format that lets viewers select which story they want to follow.
The concept has been around for decades – many of us would remember flicking through “choose your own adventure” books – and has even been previously used by Netflix for its children's show 'Puss in Book.'
However, this is the first time the interactive format will be used for an adult show.
The buzz it's generated has been meet with some scepticism about how far it will go in transforming TV.
Mistry, who is also ex-Leo Burnett digital strategy director and former head of digital marketing at Foxtel for nearly five years, heads up Comparetv.com.au, the 2013-founded business which reviews and compares TV packages such as Netflix and Amazon as well as a range of digital services such as NBN and broadband services.
He says the interactive episode is a “fun” idea and works well for Netflix. However, Mistry explains that one of the biggest challenges of interactive TV is the cost.
“On paper, easy enough, but in practice, extremely difficult and expensive,” Mistry says.
The second issue, he says, is that the format would not necessarily work with all TV shows, which is why Netflix had to select the right show with Black Mirror which is a single-episode show. However, for bigger dramas such as Game of Thrones and The Crown, not only would it be too expensive but also disruptive to the creative process.
“Can you imagine an interactive version of The Crown where viewers get to choose whether or not Churchill stayed as Prime Minister? It would undermine the entire story”.
He also argues that the extra control interactive TV gives viewers will likely be welcomed by consumers but not so much by advertisers.
“It simply wouldn't work with traditional ad funded linear broadcasting, the most suitable platforms to carry the format are not ad funded. Ad insertion into on demand content often feels forced and is never a great experience, this would be no exception,” he adds.
As for whether we will be seeing the new format on Australian platforms, Mistry says that we'll likely have to wait a while before that happens.
“Netflix has always been determined to be seen to be pushing the boundaries ahead of everyone else, and while interactive "choose your own story path" TV isn't especially new, Netflix has the ideal platform for it, since they've already developed a user interface they can overlay on the screen.
“Obviously it'll be seen on Netflix in Australia as well, but for local platforms like Stan it might not be of interest, due to the need to develop a basic platform for it as well as the costs of production.
“Brands such as Stan are already closely following Netflix in terms of their business model and have moved into original content production. On the other side of the coin, it could be argued that video games do this sort of thing better. Australian providers would likely wait to see how this experiment plays out.”
While Mistry acknowledge the buzz would be great for Netflix, he is hesitant to say that it would transform video content overall.
“It's a bit of a gimmick really, but it's great PR, and will get people heading straight onto Netflix to check it out.
“But it undermines the creative process to a point that it wouldn't make sense for linear series. We don't think it's a “game changer" - it's too niche - but it's a terrific example of just how versatile Netflix's platform is, and fresh ideas in the streaming space are welcome, even if they're not long-term game-changers.”
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