This post is reprinted from my New Social Darwinism blog, which focuses on social media and content. However, it seemed apt for this blog, and it’s been so long since I posted here, I’ve included it. Enjoy!
At my house, watching television while working on our laptops or iPad is second nature. My husband does any number of things on his laptop while we’re viewing: he’s checking on that actress that looks so familiar (“where did we see her before?”), scanning eBay, checking the news and, of course, working.
Meanwhile I can be found on the couch with my iPad on my lap, usually playing a game, doing research for school or checking email while watching television.
When something really special is on – such as last night’s season premiere of “The Walking Dead” – I usually put the iPad down and devote most of my attention to the show.
Not last night.
Last night I decided to try the colossally hyped AMC “Story Sync” to watch the show. Used earlier this year on “Breaking Bad,” Story Sync provides interactive content and discussion during the first airing of each new episode. It makes sense for the network for two reasons: First, it gets people to watch the show when it airs rather than record it on a DVR for later viewing. That helps pump up the viewing numbers, which in turn drives the cost for advertising.
Second, the concept of the so-called “second screen” that I described above is widespread. My house isn’t extraordinary in that respect. Social TV apps such as Get Glue sprang from this trend. Networks eventually took notice and realized they could keep viewers on their own branded sites if they created their own interactive content. Brilliant.
So my task last night was to experience Story Sync. I didn’t join in on the discussion group that generated thousands of comments and discussions. That was a bit too much multi-tasking for me on a Sunday night. But I did play along with the synched content.
I was concerned the distraction of answering survey questions, would take away from my viewing experience, but the content was spaced out enough that I could still keep up with the episode. It was way more distracting for my husband because I kept yelling out poll questions to him as they came up. Fortunately he’s a fairly patient man.
Sample poll (if you’re a “Walking Dead” fan and haven’t seen the first episode, beware of spoilers here): “The prison. Worth the trouble.” That’s a question. Viewers’ choices are simple: Yes or No. Pick one and – instant gratification! – you quickly find out how your answer stacks up against other viewers’ responses.
Polls include judgment calls (“The group is enjoying killing the walkers.” Yes or No), predictions (“We’ll take the field by tonight – Rick.” Choices: No problem or casualties ahead). Other interactive elements include the “gore gauge” (yes, really. Compared to my fellow watchers, what I thought ranked “total blood bath” was only “major carnage”), an ad for Hyundai (“Dead Giveaway Survive and Drive Sweepstakes), trivia, instant video replays and – my personal favorite – a very detailed look at the specs of Ricks sniper rifle.
Gosh, it was kind of fun.
The advantages I see for AMC is that it personalizes the experience; it makes viewers feel like part of a community; it provides extra exposure for advertisers; and it gets people watching live, rather than using the DVR.
Would I want to do it for every show I watch? No. For the occasional big event? Maybe. For “The Walking Dead” next week? Hell yes. I do, after all, have to bounce back from being completely wrong about which character would have the highest body count.
But that’s next Sunday. Until then, I’ll be playing “Midnight Mysteries – Haunted Houdini” while watching the evening news or looking up that familiar actress in imdb.com while watching “Ink Master” on Spike. The combinations with the TV and the “second screen” are endless.
- Walking Dead Scares Up Monster Ratings (adweek.com)