Netflix looks to evolve storytelling with interactive Black Mirror episodes
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Netflix looks to evolve storytelling with interactive Black Mirror episodes

Netflix thinks it knows what fans will enjoy even more than dystopian sci-fi short story series Black Mirror: being part of the nightmare. News broke at the beginning of the month that the streaming video on demand (SVOD) market leader was looking to produce special episodes of the successful franchise that worked like a ‘choose your own adventure’ narrative. These stories are probably best remembered from fantasy and science fiction young adult novels in the 80s and 90s, where readers were able to dictate characters’ choices, leading to a variety of different endings. It’s yet another example of how big tech is rewriting the rules on entertainment.

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Black Mirror is a science fiction series of short stories that explores the intersection between technology and humanity in dystopian near-futures (or at least, it was originally conceived of in this way by creator Charlie Brooker – later episodes have strayed somewhat from his twisted vision). The show was ‘provocative’ from the get-go, and has garnered huge acclaim from audiences and critics alike. Importantly, it lends itself well to the ‘choose your own adventure’ style – it’s inherently speculative, and encourages viewers to stretch their imagination. Giving them an actual say in how the story progresses is a common sense – if unexpected – proposition.

This is a big bet on interactive TV that will look to reshape how people consume narratives, creating an experience that is somewhere between traditional television and video games. It’s not Netflix’s first foray into the area – it has debuted a handful of children’s programs that feature the technology – but it is by far the biggest. And Black Mirror is a huge critical success – making it the first choose-your-own adult show implies that Netflix wants to grab a big audience, and isn’t afraid of mangling one of their stand-out hits.

Interactive TV has been discussed before, and it hasn’t yet made the dent early pioneers might have hoped for. But with Netflix’s deep pockets and great creative minds involved, that could soon change. Jim Eko, CEO of interactive TV developer Eko, thinks we’re about to innovate entertainment. He said: “the time is right for interactive TV to become a mainstream experience.”

Disclosure

Dominion holds Netflix in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.


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