Adventures in Storytelling pt. 2
THE BIRTH OF CROSS MEDIA PRODUCTION
Adventures in Storytelling pt. 2
By Brian Seth Hurst
The seeds of cross media programming and production may have begun in non fiction, but now, the real innovation is actually happening in fiction. As a matter of fact, some of this activity is blurring the line between the drama of the programming and the non-fiction reality participation of the community. And, though it doesn’t break the “forth wall” down per se, it bends it, twists it and distorts it into compelling interactive audience experiences among loyal fan bases. There could be some valuable inspiration and learning available for non-fiction producers of television by digging into what is happening in the fiction cross media world. We’ll talk more about how all television producers can master cross media in later posts but first, I wanted to give you a few examples. I can write about them but it is like trying to describe a brilliant VFX moment in a movie. You really have to see it. Or in this case you really have to be “in” it. So I urge you after reading this article to go play!
2007’s crop of Emmy® finalists for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television are pioneers, masters of cross media production pushing the frontiers and drawing audiences into the worlds they have created by extending environments, characters and plot onto platforms that are part of their viewers everyday lives: broadband, mobile, gaming, social networking and more. This trend has given rise to a new term – “distributed storytelling” and new titles: Executive Producer Cross Media and Producer Cross Media.
NBC’s Heroes 360 Experience knew that their audience of science fiction fans would be an active online community. They wrangled them through the introduction of the character of Hana Gitelman exclusively on-line. Hana became the bridge between what was on television and the opportunity for viewsers to become more deeply involved and therefore have more at stake emotionally in the show. Through emails and text messages to those registered (providing a valuable fan database) she interacted with them on a daily basis, urged them to build profiles, do research, and explore. She began by telling them how to hack into the fictitious Primatech Paper web site where they could find hidden messages, clues, voicemails, etc. that extended the shows plot lines compelling them to solve the mysteries. Later when Hana’s character appeared in the television show, the online community already knew who she was and why she was there. And yet, those who only watched the television show had no feeling of being left out. When Hero’s was off the air, the experience kept fans engaged in the Heroes universe. Between January 22 and March 22 of 2007 the Heros 360 Experience had over 48 million page views and 27 million video downloads testifying to the power of great storytelling and the ability to move an audience back and forth between platforms. (NBC.Com delivers with ‘Heroes360’The Futon Critic. 2007-03-22). Calling this season a dry-run, Co-executive producer and writer Jesse Alexander has promised that this season the 360 Experience will be even bigger. (WWLA: Loeb & Co Talk “Heroes” (Comicbookresources.com March 17,2007) This is a great example of not only knowing your audience but anticipating their needs and desires and giving them content and interactivity that is deeply and richly engaging. It is satisfying a hunger.
Brian Seth Hurst is CEO of the Opportunity Management Company, Inc. a cross media strategy and production company. Hurst served two terms as Chairman of the Producers Guild of America New Media Council (’03-’05) while simultaneously serving on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Board of Governors. Currently, he is Second Vice Chair of the Television Academy and sits on the National Board of the PGA.