On 28 December, Netflix premiered its first interactive film ‘Bandersnatch’ in the science-fiction series Black Mirror. With a new choice menu at the bottom of the screen, Netflix allows the user to make decisions for the protagonist which consequently leads to different storylines. Although interactive stories are not necessarily a new thing, as they have existed in different forms ranging from choose-your-own-adventure games, books and films, it is the first time that a streaming platform has experimented with this concept.
What does this mean?
Interactive content provides Netflix with a range of advantages such as offering more personalized and potentially engaging content, collecting more intimate user data for marketing or product development and combat piracy. Most interesting, but somewhat overlooked, is the fact that Bandersnatch could set the trend for embedded content interfaces for films, series and shows.
These embedded content interfaces potentially enable content producers and streaming platforms to integrate all kinds of functionalities and services into content. Game-like features (e.g. trivia shows, murder-mystery) may be introduced and the same goes for e-commerce functionalities (e.g. shoppable content) or social features (e.g. scene comments, social voting). Moreover, it is not unthinkable that even more intimate inputs, like heartrate through wearables, can be used in developing new formats. As the competition in the streaming market is expected to increase, we can also expect a host of experiments with these kinds of interfaces, potentially creating an explosion of new interactive content formats. Thereby content could become an interesting doorway for media companies to extend into new markets. At the same time, it remains to be seen how the blend of lean-back and lean-forward elements can lead to a successful format, as a few attempts in the past have already faltered (e.g. second screen).