An inside look at ‘Battle for Nuceria,’ the Spartacus social TV experience

By Natan Edelsburg 

In January, Spartacus, a Starz original series, will launch its third and final season “War of the Damned”. Months before the season airs the network launched a detailed and exciting social TV experience for fans called “Battle for Nuceria,” allowing fans to engage with the show and characters through missions and experiences where they can earn points and win prizes. We interviewed Erin Dwyer, Starz Executive Director of Digital Marketing about the details of this impressive social TV experience.

Spartacus is no stranger to social TV experiences that have helped build and grow the brand. In November Starz launched the experience, a social TV game that includes giving fans a chance to view the premiere episode of the new season early by completing weekly missions. Dwyer describes how, “we wanted to reward our loyal Spartacus fans who have helped us build such a great community for our show” and the details that go into the ability to unlock content and earn prizes. Here are the details of one of TV’s greatest efforts ever to make the most passionate fans work to see the show early.

Lost Remote: What’s the Battle for Nuceria and how does it work?
Erin Dwyer: Battle For Nuceria is a transmedia experience for Spartacus fans that allows them to engage with the show and its characters in their daily lives. A player becomes part of Spartacus’ rebellion and earns points in a series of missions that enters them into a sweepstakes, has them competing against each other for rank in the leaderboard, and gives them a chance to view the premiere episode of Spartacus: War of the Damned early.

LR: Why did Starz choose to provide an opportunity to release the episode early via a social TV experience?
Dwyer: We wanted to reward our loyal Spartacus fans who have helped us build such a great community for our show. With this being the final season, we wanted to show them our appreciation for their continued support, and we feel that giving them a chance to see the premiere episode first along with access to over 3 hours of exclusive content and some epic prizes does that. They also work together as a community, since the premiere will be released provided a certain number of points are obtained across the community’s efforts.

LR: How many community points have to be achieved before the premiere episode is unlocked?
Dwyer:Battle For Nuceria rebels will be challenged to scan thousands of key art and Spartacus images across print and web to unlock the first episode. With current engagement we have strong confidence they will have no problem achieving the necessary points. The first episode unlocking is tied to Mission 6’s activity specifically and not a cumulative point value across the whole program. Once the community achieves the point value the episode will be available on starting January 23rd.

LR: Is the game similar to the Spartacus social game that came out before last season?
Dwyer: Spartacus: Vengeance: The Game was only for Facebook and launched as soon as the season premiered. Battle For Nuceria is not specific to one destination. The experience is played through the microsite, with an iOS app, a custom browser app, and is being launched in advance of War of the Damned and continues through finale (5 month duration). The actual gameplay will involve mobile elements like checking in at gyms or coffee shops to earn points, visual recognition scanning, web graffiti and social challenges. Using a variety of platforms aims to maximize the engagement and reach of the program.

LR: What was the development process for Battle For Nuceria like?
Dwyer: There were a lot of details! We created a lot of custom content just for this experience which adds a whole new layer to building a digital experience. From working with Steven S. DeKnight (the show creator) on the scripts for our mission content to building out the ‘gamification’ and points systems there were a lot of moving parts. We had to make sure the microsite and app worked together to give the players a truly seamless transmedia experience and our agency did a fantastic job developing UI and overall design that worked across the platforms. We also made sure to incorporate social elements such as Facebook and Twitter Connect, Foursquare’s new Venues API and a real time Twitter feed on the microsite so that this a truly social experience that can be amplified and fans can be excited about.

LR: How is the show talent involved with Battle For Nuceria?
Dwyer:It was imperative for this experience to feel as if the fan was a part of the rebel army so we worked with our rebel generals to create custom videos that assign consumers each of their missions. For example, Dan Feuerriegel, who plays Agron, provided the first and second missions. Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), Manu Bennett (Crixus), Dustin Clare (Gannicus) and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Naevia) also appear in upcoming content providing the rebel army their task at hand. Steven S. DeKnight worked in collaboration with the digital team to make sure the scripts were in line with the characters and the show’s tone, time frame, etc. We wanted the content to feel authentic but also fun since this was an experience outside of the show.

LR: Can a user play the game strictly on their iPhone?
Dwyer: No, registering is necessary on (which you can do on the mobile site or desktop) and then a link to download the app is delivered after a player completes the first mission. A player can view their missions and rewards on the app at any time, though, it serves as a key tool through the experience.They can also communicate with other players and post about their play to Facebook and Twitter via the iOS app or the site.

LR: Does Battle For Nuceria coincide with the actual War of the Damned episodes at any point?
Dwyer: Yes, there is a mission for each episode where players can unlock exclusive insights about what they saw on-air. The in-season missions coordinate with the show’s plot and progression each week. Our rebel army fans will take on missions tied to the challenges and key plot points he rebels face in the show. As the community completes these missions there is more custom video of Steven S. DeKnight providing exclusive insight into the creation of the show each week! While these missions allow you to unlock these rewards, they do not have any bearing on the sweepstakes that ends after the first pre-season six missions.

LR: What are some of the prizes that leaders can win in that sweepstakes?
Dwyer: Our grand prize winner gets a trip to Rome, Italy. Some of the other prizes include a trip to Cancun, a year supply of movie tickets, an iPad Mini, Spartacus prop replica items and more. The top 24 players on the leaderboard all are rewarded somehow!

LR: Does Starz have other social TV experiences in development?
Dwyer: We are always exploring new social TV experiences for our shows in order to help our viewers and fans interact with our shows in tangible and more immersive ways. We’re always blown away by the feedback and engagement we receive. We are dedicated to providing the most premium content and digital experiences that compliment, enhance and expand the worlds we create to our viewers, so there is more to come. We’ll make sure to keep Lost Remote readers posted on any new Starz experiences they can take part in.