Why Europe Led the Way in Interactive

Why Europe Led the Way in Interactive

Jan 27, 2015: London, 2000. The move abroad meant being plunked into a vortex of creative and entrepreneurial energy in the digital space. During the first dot-com wave, Europe paved the way for cross-platform (convergent) programming in media and entertainment. Given the European’s habitual use of teletext, the transition to interactive digital platforms was as natural as gulping a pint of ale. Among the pivotal events were: The Emergence of Interactive TV: BBC’s Red Button The Birth of a Digital Entertainment Portal: Channel 4’s E4 The Rise of Reality/Event TV: Endemol’s “Big Brother” IMT-2000: A Single Standard (G3) for Mobile Services and Applications At <kpe> Europe, we were not only building Channel 4’s E4 (e4.com) – heralded as Europe’s first broadband channel – but also creating short-form digital entertainment for the new online space. Most viewers didn’t have broadband at the time; Britons accessed E4 via dial-up modems. Drip feed. It didn’t stop E4 from livestreaming “Big Brother” over the Internet. I. THE EMERGENCE OF INTERACTIVE TV – THE SWITCH FROM ANALOGUE TO DIGITAL Before anyone knew about the Internet, Europeans were using teletext and interacting daily with their televisions. Few homes in England went without a teletext-enabled TV set. Developed in the 1970s, BBC’s analogue teletext service, Ceefax, allowed users to access news headlines, weather, traffic updates, train and flight schedules, stock prices, TV program schedules, lottery results, sports scores and even recipes. Teletext users leafed through text menus on their TVs as easily as today’s smart phone users thumb through apps. In contrast, the FCC shied away from setting a teletext standard in the 1980s, and left...
Extending Narrative in Transmedia – Mobisodes and Digi-Novels (Pt 2)

Extending Narrative in Transmedia – Mobisodes and Digi-Novels (Pt 2)

Jan 24, 2015: In looking at Q Chronicles and Bridget Jones transmedia formats circa 2000 (Part 1), some of the early cross-platform concepts explore how to distribute narrative across multiple platforms as well as how to extend narrative. In Q Chronicles, we were expanding the story world by using TV interstitials to tell a parallel story – the murder mystery of Fox’s mother – via a series of flashbacks. The parallel story and the main (macro) story converge in the final episode of the series. Today, the techniques for expanding narrative across multiple platforms have been more clearly defined. In 2009, Carlos Alberto Scolari specified four techniques in his article “Transmedia Storytelling: Implicit Consumers, Narrative Worlds, and Branding in Contemporary Media Production” in the “International Journal of Communication.” FILLING NARRATIVE GAPS WITH “LOST: MISSING PIECES”  “Lost: Missing Pieces” is an example of using microstories to expand the story world of the hit TV series. Thirteen mobisodes, averaging two to three minutes, aired from November 7, 2007 to January 28, 2008. While Verizon wireless subscribers could view these microstories on their mobile phones, non-subscribers were able to view them later on ABC.com. Created to complement “Lost” scenes already broadcast on the small screen, the mobisodes filled in narrative gaps in the TV show. If you weren’t a die-hard fan and tracked the show’s labrynthine throughlines, you may not have understood the import of these mobisodes. However, “Lost: Missing Pieces” allowed for a deeper and more complex understanding of character motivations. Microstories (interstitials) are a flexible tool. Media creators can use three different strategies – temporal (time-based), spatial (location-based) or character-based...
Q Chronicles – Cross-Platform Story Engine (Pt 1)

Q Chronicles – Cross-Platform Story Engine (Pt 1)

Jan 22, 2015: The convergent programming concepts we created during the first dot-com wave have yet to be fully realised. These concepts can serve as learning vehicles for current cross-platform creators. In 2000, I devised the “Q Chronicles,” a cross-platform format that wove together a TV show, interstitials, website and mobile devices. The William Morris Agency in London jumped on the “Q Chronicles” cross-platform story engine as a blueprint for key-in-lock (mysteries, detective, science fiction, etc.) programming. But TV producers shied away. The technology to execute was still crude and costly. With the widespread adoption of broadband and the rise of web video, complex convergent programming may emerge in today’s media universe. This article will unfold in two parts: 1) Q Chronicles Cross-Platform Story Engine and 2) Extending Narrative and Zuiker’s Level 26, the Digi-Novel. At <kpe> Europe, we envisioned the anchor of the “Q Chronicles” to be a TV show – police drama – that featured veteran homicide detective Richard Kew (nicknamed “Q”) and rookie Sonya Fox. Kew has kept a journal of his hard-won cases – hence, the “Q Chronicles.” Kew suffers from dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease and must (eventually) resign from Scotland Yard. Fox is slated to move into Kew’s cubbyhole. Initially, Kew battles with Fox – a young/old, man/woman conflict. Over time, Fox gains the trust and respect of the old inspector. A father-daughter relationship forms as they team up to solve homicides. When Kew’s mind begins to disintegrate, Fox delves into Kew’s chronicles to learn the techniques that made Kew a star inspector. In the final episode, Kew dies. Now operating solo, Fox...
Bridget Jones: Cross-Platform Programming

Bridget Jones: Cross-Platform Programming

Jan 20, 2015: In 2000, I was tasked with creating the convergent platform strategy for “Bridget Jones.” I was heading Entertainment for <kpe> Europe, an American digital agency responsible for building Channel 4’s e4.com. <kpe> was managing the digital properties/extensions for the book. The movie had yet to be released. It was an exciting project that not only challenged traditional tenets of storytelling but also gave us the chance to boost audience engagement, brand equity and revenues. What’s the point of cross-platform programming? Standaone properties in each of the media – film, TV, Internet and mobile devices – that are not integrated and fail to feed off of each other pose a missed opportunity. Integrated media may unify and greatly enhance brand equity and present new opportunities for advertising, sponsorship, subscription and e-commerce. With regard to Bridget Jones, we intended to not only distribute content across multiple platforms but also exploit the property across multiple channels – online and off. Why resurrect a project from 15 years ago? In Internet time, is this not ancient history? At the time, we were striving for “convergent programming” – now known as transmedia or multi- / cross-platform entertainment. By exploring the process of extending traditional content – books, films and TV – into digital properties, we began to ask questions that are as relevant today. Technology was lagging behind content in 2000. Not only were the pipes small but few people had broadband. Imagine waiting for minutes to download a large image or watch a 5-second video. Technology has caught up if not leaped ahead of storytelling. Oculus may sell thousands of...