Have you ever been unhappy with the ending of a TV show? Did you sit through the first season of Stranger Things with hope that Barb would triumphantly burst from the Upside Down and save the day, but were disappointed that she (spoiler alert) didn’t? Or, despite being grounded in historical fact and therefore making it inappropriate to change, were you saddened by Princess Margaret’s decision to end her relationship with Peter Townsend in The Crown, and wished for an alternative? Well, soon this age-old problem could be a thing of the past.
Netflix is reportedly in talks about developing an immersive experience for viewers, where they are granted full interactive control to guide the narrative as they please, and see the ending that they want.
'We're doing work on branch narratives so you are actually making choices as you watch,' a source told The Daily Mail. ‘All the content will be there, and then people will have to get through it in different ways. We'll see how it plays out. It's an experiment.
‘We'll see if it gets much success. For creators, it's new territory.’
Netflix’s original series - Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and Stranger Things, to name a few - have enjoyed immense success as they have been created around what people want to watch. Stranger Things was commissioned entirely from viewing data; the creators leveraged the power of data science to build a narrative around what people were searching for (in this case: a bit of sci-fi and a bit of 80s = genius).
By tapping into a zeitgeist to inform data, audiences are already harbouring total control over what they are served. To hand them what would essentially be a video game controller to gain full narrative immersion is the next step in fine-tuning what we consume – in the way social media algorithms filter our feeds.
Already trialled in books, is this immersive experience ruining authored creativity and the human element of surprise? Or, is manually altering narratives to be suited to our genre preferences a natural progression?
Netflix’s experiment will be carried out, first, on children's television – with actors filming numerous plot lines and endings.
It has not yet been confirmed whether the interactive format will be exclusive to new programmes or added to existing ones – but we're incredibly interested to see how this all unfolds.
READ MORE: The Crown: Sorting The Fact From The Fiction