Broadcasters are increasingly using a variety of methods to involve the viewer more, and give their audiences more control. The introduction of BBC iplayer and 4oD means that viewers are no longer constricted to television schedules, and the growing use of the internet means that broadcasters are now having to provide content via the web, either as exclusively web based programmes or in conjuction with their television shows.
For example, the popular BBC show Torchwood is accompanied by an array of online features. These include the ability to explore the Torchwood hub and some behind-the-scenes vodcasts. The viewer can, effectively, become one of the corporation’s employees.
There is also a similar game for Robin Hood where viewers can become one of Robin Hood’s merry men.
ITV’s ‘The Bill’ encourages viewers to become detectives in it’s interactive episodes. Clues to a murder plot are dispersed throughout the internet and web exclusive CCTV footage can be accessed and viewed on a YouTube channel.
Viewers can also now influence how a storyline plays out. In a play filmed for the internet by the BBC, characters would ask the viewers for advice on what to do on a particular situation and would then act on the advice given (or not). In order to give their opinion, the viewer was able to see both possible outcomes beforehand.
Similarly, a Channel 4 interactive drama ‘Dubplate’ enabled the outcome to be dictated by viewers though text messages.
A study by Google showed that more people are spending their time surfing the internet rather than watching television, so it is essential that broadcasters utilise the web in making TV content available. “Only by investing in new interactive programme formats today can broadcasters such as the BBC gain the audience insight it will need to cope when TV via the internet becomes the norm.”