We reported back in March that Netflix was quietly producing interactive television programming. The product seemed targeted at young children, though with hints it could expand into mature content.
Today Netflix announced the rumors as reality. This Tuesday Netflix will roll out content with interactive features they’ve been developing for the past two years. Viewers will be able to choose the outcome of their shows as they watch them, which will also allow for repeat viewings.
“Content creators have a desire to tell non-linear stories like these, and Netflix provides the freedom to roam, try new things and do their best work,” Netflix said in a press release “Being an internet-based company enables us to innovate new formats, deliver at scale to millions of members all over the world on multiple device types and, most importantly, learn from it.”
As mentioned the programming so far is aimed at children and family content. The first interactive shows will be Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale, and Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile, out July 14. Viewers will be able to choose between two options at key junctures of the story, either through touching the screen or pressing the corresponding arrows on a remote. This will allow people to feel like they’re influencing the story as it goes along.
With more than 100 million viewers online and having nearly 54% of households engage with family and children content, it seems sure this interactive programming will find an audience.
“The children’s programming space was a natural place for us to start since kids are eager to ‘play’ with their favorite characters and already inclined to tap, touch and swipe at screens,” the release stated. “They also talk to their screens, as though the characters can hear them. Now, that conversation can be two-way. It’s really about finding the right stories — and storytellers — that can tell these complex narratives and bring them to life in a compelling way.”
How this will impact narrative storytelling in the future is curious. A program like Arrested Development Season 4 had no formal episode order. You could watch them out of order, though some would argue this had an adverse effect rather than a positive one. Viewers could be potentially interested in a choose-your-own-adventures Orange is the New Black season, but that will remain to be seen.
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Considering some of the innovative approaches Netflix has had to programming, there is potential. But it would be important for a narrative to organically include an interactive storytelling element. The simplicity might work for kids, but it’s easy to see older audiences hungry for interactive content to turn to gaming instead.
Netflix’s interactive programming is currently available on smart TV platforms, streaming, and iOS devices.