How to develop television shows for a social and multiplatform world

The other day I spent 23 minutes watching a video from the BBC. It was 23 quite well spent minutes, as the journalist inquestion – Rory-Cellan Jones – had devoted quite a lot of effort to his subject, that ofthe future of television. The video features interviews with people fromMicrosoft, Google, Dijit, even Robert Scoble. The talks are all about how toharness the allure and the pull of television in a social and connectedcontext, and in the end of course how to make money from it all.

What the video shows, is that there are a lotof interesting ventures out there; Google TV, connected TV sets, lots of appsfor iPads and iPhones and Android gear and so on. But it also, quite clearly,shows that no one has really ”gotten it” yet. When, for instance, talking aboutconnected tv sets, the challenge is to get the masses to actually connect thesets, to see the benefits of doing so and have the benefits outweigh thediscomfort of actually having to go through the hassle of connecting the setsand using them for something else than plain viewing.

Here is where I see that tv program and formatdevelopers have quite a challenging task ahead of them. Content is King is theold rallying cry for the creative industries. Context is even more King, issomething that has been argued lately, especially if talking aboutmultiplatform, cross media and transmedia. Now, what we need to do, is createcompelling content in the right context and infuse it with that sprinkling ofmagic that will make it near impossible to resist as a connected, socialexperience.
Peter Cashmore of Mashable wrote a piece for CNN the other week, where he talked about today’s television hits not being”Must-See” television, but rather ”Must–Tweet” television; i.e. the sort oftelevision show that craves interaction – if not with the show itself, then atleast with other people experiencing the same thing right then. This worksfairly well with large live shows; the final of Idol, Champions League games infootball, the Eurovision Song Contest and so on. The challenge then, is how to createthis craving to interact, comment, laugh and scowl (which admittedly sometimesis more interesting than the show itself) for other types of shows? Well, Ipropose – admittedly from my limited point of view but nevertheless – fourpoints to take into consideration when designing, re-designing and developingtelevision shows for a social and connected world:

1. Create the foundations forsuccess. For many companies the first step will be to pull down the silosbetween different departments and make people talk to each other and actuallymake an effort to understand each other and see everything in the same light.For a successful multiplatform tv-based project to work, the programdevelopment people must make themselves understood to the tech people and themarketing people, and the tech and marketing people must make their realitiesstick with the development people. All else is simply counterproductive.

 2. Do a lot of research and build on success (or failure).Andrea Phillips is quite rightly adamant in insisting that one does oneself adisservice by not looking at what has already been produced and distributed.There is absolutely no shame in standing on the shoulders of others; indeed,many of the best innovations, also in the media and television business, areprojects inspired by earlier failures or successes. From my own experience Iknow that almost whatever you try to create, someone has already thought of it.Which is all good and well, as you can use this to make your own project better… 

3. Consider applyingtransmedia storytelling methods. Not every show should go transmedia, not everyshow should even be true multiplatform. They can still generate a buzz, stillbuild a hype, but do not need to go all the way. But for the ones that do gomultiplatform, applying transmedia storytelling methods will be of use toeveryone involved in the development and production and distribution parts ofthe process. As transmedia is based on developing a thorough background,storyworld, mythology and narrative superstructure, this will help immenslywhen trying to implement point 1 above – getting everyone to see the sameproject and understanding the same thing and work together towards a commongoal. It will help in the development process of any kind of television show,it will give pointers to where entry points can be implemented to invite anaudience to participate, it will assist in developing story archs and characters,it will help when keeping multiplatform content coherent and logicallyconnected between all parts… it’s all good, basically. 

4. Listen and respond. This is one strengththat, say, a weekly game show has over a multi-million dollar drama series fromHBO. It is possible to listen to what people say and discuss on social mediaand use that to tweak the show. Also make sure there is staff dedicated to thejob – if someone has a great idea for the show on Twitter, respond! Drop a lineto say ”hey, can we call you to hear you out on that idea?”. No one knows whatgems might be unearthed…

I’d love discussion on this, so comment hereor hit me up on Twitter (or in person, if I’m at the same conference as you).More and better multiplatform / transmedia content for the people!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s