Bandersnatch Proved That Audiences Want to Engage and Have a Dialogue With Their Video Content

Passive viewing is a thing of the past

The main character of Black Mirror's Bandersnatch twiddles his thumbs
Bandersnatch opened up possibilities for future TV viewing.
Netflix

Looking beyond Bandersnatch, the expectation and demand for interactive TV is just starting. Netflix has already announced plans for more interactive TV shows, thanks to the Black Mirror episode’s popularity with audiences.

If you consider that Bandersnatch was a success with millennials and older generations who didn’t even grow up with that much interactive content, the interactive TV trend will likely only grow with each succeeding generation.

Gen Z and the generations after it, born into a world where they play and live online, where everything around them is a touch screen and anything can be clicked on and interacted with, grow up expecting and demanding instant gratification when they are deciding on whether to ignore or consume content.

While Bandersnatch is set in the past, its success is a hint at the way technology can shape the future of content development and content consumption. Netflix is speaking of the option to open the tools they used to create such “choose your own adventure” interactive content with alternate endings as a paid service or license to content creators. If TV as a medium is to survive with these generations, interactive TV almost has to become the norm. Conventional television is a one-way monologue, with no conversation or engagement. For Gen Zers, the world of being a couch potato in front of passive television as we know it is probably coming to an end.

By asking your audience questions, letting them vote their opinion or adding interactive elements that they can engage with, your content turns into a dialogue.

That is why interactive content like gamification has become such an essential tool. Netflix was able to utilize this tool with its integration of storytelling and technology. This type of gamification is able to take the concept of audience interaction one step further by ensuring that not only is the audience being heard, they are also being listened to. It ensures the audience has a vested interest the entire time.

There are a lot of lessons from Bandersnatch’s interactivity for all content creators who want to be more memorable and improve audience engagement overall and don’t want to risk their audiences abandoning them for good. All of which can be applied by marketers in the digital space where interactivity and its benefits can be enjoyed even without Netflix’s tools and their high production values.

Personalization

Millennials and Gen Zers have grown up in a hyper-personalized world, creating a dependence on personalized experience. For this demographic, personalization is not just a fad, it’s a way of life. Bandersnatch used this understanding as a jumping point to create an experience that allows engagement, individual storytelling and self-expression. By asking your audience questions, letting them vote their opinion or adding interactive elements that they can engage with, your content turns into a dialogue. It lets users shape their own journey within it, making sure one’s consumption experience is slightly different than someone else’s.

Engagement

Current generations prefer to play an active role in the content they consume. They view content as more of a conversation as opposed to a transaction. The combination of participation and personalization is the perfect recipe for the engagement of today’s consumer. Today, people are no longer just passively watching TV. Many people engage in multiple screens at the same time. Even with all these distractions, people are more engaged than ever and are actively participating in the storytelling process.

There is a desire to not only watch television but to experience it. Interactive content like quizzes, polls and ranking increases dwell time with your content just by keeping users—not just the younger ones—interested for longer. It might even offer them a story that will be slightly different if they consume it again but make new choices within it, the kind of opportunity an online quiz provides. It’s not just a new way of storytelling, but a more engaging one.

Data gathering

Bandersnatch allows viewers to choose their own adventure, which leads to the viewer making interesting storytelling choices. One obvious benefit for brands lies in the data that can be gathered from this user participation and the ways brands can use this data to create an impressive marketing infrastructure. This type of interactivity establishes a direct connection between consumers and marketers. These moments create opportunities for Netflix to market to its users while simultaneously learning from them. Adding questions to your content allows you to learn important information about your users just by asking them what you want to know.

Even though interactive content is already proliferating on phones, watches and other wearables, Bandersnatch’s recent success indicates that interactive content still has a long way to go. This is just the beginning. There’s still a lot of one-way content in advertising and in entertainment and a lot of opportunities to create content that gives consumers the option to actively engage and be a part of an experience, not just passively read and scroll.

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