Netflix has been breaking new ground since it began introducing original content to the world of online subscription services. The service upended the world of TV/movie production, so much so that they've changed the makeup of awards shows and production protocol. And, just when it looked as though they were satisfied with their upcoming slew of original films, it looks like Netflix is about to change the game yet again.
The way we experience TV and movies has always been fairly one-sided, especially for movies. While fan engagement with showrunners and writers can sometimes change the course of a show, movies are already complete and packaged by the time they reach audiences. It looks like Netflix is looking to further increase the close relationship between fans and serial content, as they experiment with new TV content that gives the viewer even more power. Ever read a choose-your-own-adventure novel?Imagine that, but with your favorite characters and stories.
According to The Daily Mail, Netflix is looking to create interactive TV content that will allow viewers to choose from a number of different plot directions as the show's story progresses. According to reports, the company is looking to film numerous different plot routes in advance, allowing viewers to decide which path to take as they watch. Some story options may even become so complex that they could result in "infinite" show content. The company will pilot this idea with choose-your-own-adventure shows for children later this year, and move forward if that attempt proves successful. A source close to Netflix said:
"We’re doing work on branch narratives so you are actually making choices as you watch. All the content will be there, and then people will have to get through it in different ways. . .We’ll see how it plays out. It’s an experiment. We’ll see if it gets much success. For creators, it’s new territory."
Netflix president Reed Hastings confirmed these developments, stating, "Once you have got interactivity you can try anything."
This development would undoubtedly change the face of TV as we know it, and could lead to some intense production standards for those shows looking to go the choose-your-own-adventure route. Writers will have to be on their toes to really make this one work, and it could make fan engagement with works even more complex. One version of a show could be completely unrecognizable from another, depending on how drastic its changes are. Still, one can't read a report like this without thinking of RPG-style video games like Mass Effect, in which the player's choices determine the plot of the entire franchise. If a cohesive fan culture can still exist for material like that, it could definitely blossom under the TV umbrella.
Whether the idea will work or not -- for viewers or producers -- is still very much up in the air, but any TV fan would be lying if they said they'd never thought about one particular moment in their favorite show that they wished they could change. Imagine: what if you could go down a Buffy the Vampire Slayer path where Tara never dies? What if you decided the season finale of the next season of Stranger Things? Whether this ends up being a sustainable way to make television remains unclear, but it would definitely be an amazing thing to try out if it ever reaches the masses.