Engaging the audience by letting them decide the outcome?

Peter Røder Kristensen | 22 June 2021

Engaging the audience as part of the experience or even influencing the outcome.

Through the history of motion pictures - well, entertainment in general - one of the cornerstones of the experience and enticement have always been to drag in the audience in the story through emotions, the suspense, the laughter, etc. of course, by creating a gripping storyline and using audiovisual tools and effects.^

Through the years, there have been a large number of more or less successful ways to create a lean-forward experience even more compelling. And now you can be involved in the decisions in real-time of a real sporting event!

Passive engagement of the user with, e.g., 3D/ 4D effects[1or Surround Sound[2] effects will submerge the user into the audiovisual experience, even more, creating a mood-setting and an environment for getting a deeper experience. Such effects have been used for decades and still today provides a way to add new dimensions to the content - but do not require the user to act for it to play out - it might be experienced slightly different from person to person, but that is due to our physiological capabilities for depth perception or the ambient imagination based on hearing things, not because of actual variations in the storyline.

Interactive storytelling[3], however, creates a surrounding where the action and decision made by the viewer will affect the outcome of the storyline. This is a sliding scale between selecting between two or more movie endings to a full range of selections on character, setting, major decisions within the story creating a wide variety of experiences in the same asset.

We have seen lots of examples of this - I can mention e.g., Netflix has produced a selection of interactive movies, some more successful than others, but all sharing the same multiple storyline option. 

From Minecraft to Black Mirror[4] - something for all audiences, but not something that has taken over the mainstream content. I ended up trying out the multiple options, getting a bit frustrated along the way.

We saw Quibi[5] come and go - short for Quick bites - attempting a promising short form, mobile user interactive storyform - engaging viewing with the user flipping their device from landscape to portrait mode to reveal alternative angles or views to the story - quite cool at first, but also a bit stressing and in danger of causing tendonitis from all the flipping.

A few years back, Norwegian broadcaster NRK succeeded with a new format playing with the short clip, multisite release format, and real timeline release for their SKAM. The target group was mid to late-teenagers and trying a multiverse of formats, where the characters of the show had their own social media pages and storylines and the release of bits during a real-time like feed. Friday evening images from a party with the characters, during the day from school, etc. Really cool reaching the target group and very engaging for the audience because you got to know the characters bit by bit as if they were posting. When the series came to other markets, it had success, even though it then was collected into half-hour sections of all the small bits - still working because of a good storyline.

Ironically enough - a lot of the social media we engage in is in reality based on our likes, dislikes, and comments - also a bit of a popular vote for what will happen next - but that is a whole other story.

Mentioning the live involvement, the user voting in TV shows is not a new thing. It has gone from being the local studio audience raising their hands or voice, TV viewers calling a number, sending an SMS text message to selecting in an app or on a website. 

I am fascinated by this because our access to high-speed internet wherever we go enables a real-time engagement option through apps and services that open up a whole new world, where linear and gaming blend together.

Live betting might be one of the drivers of this in some way. Making it possible to involve the user in a moving window of opportunity in the experience - putting money on the line, trying to predict what happens next - but this is, of course, not inflicting on the actual outcome of the game - it is a side-dish to add to the experience.

The dynamic interaction opens up for greater audience involvement and pushes the must-attend, the must-see thrill that live events present. Because you can make an impact - your involvement makes a difference.

Two great examples of this - one is really implemented across a big scale, but your viewer impact is smaller, the other is smaller, but the viewer or fan involvement is major.

Formula E-race[6]. Fastest electric racers, real drivers, mixing racing with on-track power-ups, and great fun to watch. Tours the world in major cities - and here you get an in-race vote for a so-called fan boost. Voting for your favorite driver or the one you think needs the speed the most, you can decide which driver gets an actual 5-second boost option to their racer - while the race is on - this is a taste of real user engagement - giving you the ability to influence the outcome of the event - how cool is that - I was hooked from the start!

Not that long ago, I heard about FCN - Fan Controlled Football[7]. This is taking user engagement to the next level. You sign up for a team - as a fan - and being a fan, you get to be part of selecting the strategy and plays of your team - while the football game is being played. Mind you, this is real American football players in a studio arena and the game being streamed live on Twitch. The app gives you the interface to vote for the plays, and this is the next level - you are part of a real sporting event taking place in real life and being streamed live! 

If you have the means and opportunity to be at your favorite sports event in person - great - be in the stands or by the side of the track, cheer for your team, show your dedication; if not - get the app and get involved. I personally look forward to seeing what the future will be for fan involvement in sports.

If you want to know more about how Nordija can help you engage your users, please reach out to us or one of our partners around the world.

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