Netflix Reminds Everyone That The Internet Isn't A Broadcast Medium With New Choose Your Own Adventure Shows

from the flip-to-page-45 dept

For over a decade, we have been making the point that the internet is a communications platform, not a broadcast medium. This seemingly obvious statement of fact has long been the subject of legacy content provider objections, which is part of what has led to much of the ongoing conflicts centering around intellectual property and digital business models. With big content players feeling control over their content slipping away in the internet, they have attempted to wrestle back that control by pretending the internet is something it isn't. For that reason, it's always a useful thing to point out to examples that remind people that the internet simply isn't a movie theater or television.

The latest example of that is provided by, of course, Netflix. Netflix is reportedly working on some new shows that are something of a "choose your adventure" type experience, which is something that traditional television simply isn't capable of.

Two of the interactive projects currently in negotiations are based on existing video game properties, the report suggests. That seems to include the previously announced Minecraft: Story Mode, which was largely completed with the help of Telltale before that company's massive layoffs last month. Netflix has frequently said it is not interested in getting directly into the video game business, however.

It's currently unclear just how much narrative branching will be possible in these Netflix specials, or how divergent the storylines can become based on viewer interaction. Filming extra content for such branching storylines can add significantly to the production cost of traditional linear TV narratives to create content that some viewers may never end up seeing.

"Interactive" is the key word here, one which precisely shows the separation between broadcast and communications mediums. It's a small thing, it might seem, and doesn't really touch on the typical intellectual property concerns we discuss at Techdirt, but it also beautifully highlights how the internet and broadcast mediums are simply different. And, if you accept that difference, the obvious conclusion is that they should not be treated and/or regulated as though they were the same. That important distinction has an impact across the world of how the internet functions and is treated by government and the law.

In fact, this type of interactive narrative storytelling has more in common with the video game market, or even the tabletop gaming market, than television and film.

Live TV programs and game shows have long integrated interactive elements via telephone calls, webpages, and custom apps. But fully interactive narrative stories have been more closely associated with video games, from text-based stories like Zork to Hollywood-style blockbusters like Detroit: Become Human and everything in between. This narrative flexibility has also been included in video game experiments focused on filmed live-action stories, ranging from the campy Night Trap to this year's innovative WarGames reboot.

So tuck this one away for the next time you hear someone harping on about how entertainment over the internet should be treated no differently than entertainment offered via broadcast. They're not the same. And, ultimately, that's a good thing, as that dissimilarity is what allows for cool new experiments such as what Netflix is trying to create here.


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Bill Monthly, 11 Oct 2018 @ 8:02pm

    Whoa! Let me get this straight: a book is NOT like a video game

    Gorsh. -- Anyone remember the old "programmed adventure" books? [OH, now I notice the silly "dept" line that Timmy DOES.] -- And what about the movie "Clue", 1985? Three different endings. -- It's a good idea, but won't work without exponentially increasing cost and effort. So, DOOMED.

    *And now, well into the 21st Century, NETFLIX, the company that's only 20 billion or so in debt, has the same idea!* Man, can faster-than-light travel and transporters be far off?

    > And, if you accept that difference, the obvious conclusion is that they should not be treated and/or regulated as though they were the same.

    SO, a "platform" or blog, say, that of its volition provides HTML for readers to comment, should NOT regard itself as having total editorial control over what appears on the page?

    Nothing left but to pick a screen name...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2018 @ 8:51pm

      Re: Whoa! Let me get this straight: a book is NOT like a video game

      I love watching you shit the thread.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2018 @ 10:27pm

        Re: Re: Whoa! Let me get this straight: a book is NOT like a video game

        He just hates it when due process is enforced.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 9:10pm

      a "platform" or blog, say, that of its volition provides HTML for readers to comment, should NOT regard itself as having total editorial control over what appears on the page?

      Two things.

      1. This has absolutely nothing to do with the article at hand, by any stretch of the imagination.

      2. A platform may provide a space for public comment and still retain editorial control over both public comments and whatever the platform’s owners wish to say. Show me the law, statute, or court ruling that says Techdirt admins cannot delete this comment simply because I wrote and posted it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 12 Oct 2018 @ 3:00am

      Re: Whoa! Let me get this straight: a book is NOT like a video game

      "Anyone remember the old "programmed adventure" books? [OH, now I notice the silly "dept" line that Timmy DOES.]"

      So desperate to score points that you come up with comments where you immediately debunk your own claims?

      "And what about the movie "Clue", 1985? Three different endings. -- It's a good idea, but won't work without exponentially increasing cost and effort"

      You might want to look upon the word "exponentially" in the dictionary, because shooting 10 minutes of extra content really doesn't fit. Plus, aren't you the person who's always rambling on about how you need to spend over $100 million for decent filmed entertainment? I'd have thought you'd welcome the extra investment for the people working on the films, too.

      "So, DOOMED."

      Not long term, as Clue found its audience on home video. The big problem with its initial release is that the gimmick didn't really work as intended because the distribution was random and nobody's going to pay multiple times to see the same movie on the off chance that the screening they're currently at will have the ending they haven't seen, let alone if that particular theatre even had the ending you wanted. It was a fine gimmick, but one let down by execution and a little before its time (I dare say that it would be easier to co-ordinate with digital projection and some form of online voting than with rolls of film)

      But, it thrived on other media, home video and overseas markets were quite successful I believe - because they included all 3 endings. (Unless I'm mistaken, screenings outside the US did not use the gimmick, and a US re-release was more successful when they included all 3). The industry sadly does not provide accurate reporting of income outside of theatrical box office so it's hard to say for sure how much they've made, but the fact that there's been numerous re-releases of the movie, including one this year, speaks to the fact that it's still somewhat profitable to release in a format that requires an inventory to be manufactured.

      The concept is fine - as evidenced by multiple other attempts, including the choose your own adventure books you cited yourself, as well as board games, games you played with your DVD remote and many other examples. This attempt by Netflix is not an unprecedented move, it's just another example of effective competition (in this case, providing an experience that cannot be replicated by movie theatres).

      So, you say "doomed", but the examples you've thought of were successful - in the case of the books, massively so. As ever, you think you have all the answers, but you're so far away from the truth you don't even recognise you're not in the same room as it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 12 Oct 2018 @ 5:45am

        a US re-release was more successful when they included all 3

        This is pretty much the case, yes. The home video and TV versions of Clue included all three endings buffered by on-screen text to the effect of “it could’ve ended that way, but maybe it ended this way”.[1] Only after that change did the movie find its audience.

        [1] The DVD and Blu-ray for Clue have a special option where you can watch the home video version or the theatrical version, with the difference being that the first one gets you all three endings and the second one gets you a single random ending.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2018 @ 8:04pm

    It’s both. Good lord, get a grip.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 8:08pm

    Blog

    SO, a "platform" or blog, say, that of its volition provides HTML for readers to comment, should NOT regard itself as having total editorial control over what appears on the page? What the actual fuck are you trying to say? That you should have more editorial control of TD than Mike? Because... HTML?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 12 Oct 2018 @ 12:48am

      Re: Blog

      Don't try to make sense of their rambling and flailing about trying to find something, anything they can use to demand TD remove the ability for the community to flag them, as doing so will just give you a headache.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 12 Oct 2018 @ 1:56am

      Re: Blog

      He's saying what he's usually saying - he's desperate to prove that he's being persecuted and any attempt from people to hide his bullshit is due to some personal conspiracy from Mike, and not the rest of us telling him to bugger off.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    stine, 11 Oct 2018 @ 8:23pm

    I beg to differ

    Netflix is reportedly working on some new shows that are something of a "choose your adventure" type experience, which is something that traditional television simply isn't capable of.

    If you stretch traditional TV to include American Idol, and America's Funniest Home Videos, then yes, it certainly can be a 'choose your adventure' experience. In fact, The Nielson Company would probably suggest that television has been interactive, but not so immediately interactve, and radio before it, since they introduced their first radio-related service in 1930's.

    On the other hand, with sufficiently talented writers, and by sacrificing production quality, we could devolve tv back to the times of troubadours around a campfire, making subtle changes on the fly to increase audience response.

    On a different note, once 4chan finds out about this, it'll be abandoned because all of the plotlines will be voted into marblecake, beheadings, and racism. Or the next main character will be Boaty McBoatface II.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 8:26pm

      Re: I beg to differ

      I don't think 4chan will be able to choose new hilarious branches, just vote on the tame ones Netflix will provide. And it wasn't completely clear, but it looked like each viewer would pick their own path when the watch instead of a voting group determining the course of the show.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 9:15pm

        I don't think 4chan will be able to choose new hilarious branches, just vote on the tame ones Netflix will provide.

        This is the exact case. Netflix has already experimented with this sort of programming before, including a CYOA special for the animated series Buddy Thunderstruck. They seem a bit more like Dragon’s Lair or a Telltale game, in that your choices are limited to two or three available branching paths.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 11 Oct 2018 @ 9:42pm

        Re: Re: I beg to differ

        I don't think 4chan will be able to choose new hilarious branches

        Though as the joke goes, we [i]already[/i] have the Hitler channel on cable TV. Just for some odd reason the letters that accompany the big H that makes the channel's logo say "istory."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2018 @ 5:36am

      Re: I beg to differ

      It's been done in films too. I remember the marketing for Mr. Payback in the 90s, but it goes back to 1967's Kinoautomat really.

      The concept's been around forever; The Simpsons made fun of it long ago, the film Speed referenced it, and there was a lot of talk around it in the first dot-com boom. It never sticks because it's really hard to do anything that feels like real interactivity with prerecorded content. So you end up with minimal branching, and it feels gimmicky—a curiousity rather than a practical advancement in entertainment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2018 @ 5:45am

        Re: Re: I beg to differ

        Or maybe I confused The Simpsons with this scene from Futurama, which was not quite as long ago.

        "If you want Calculon to race to the lasergun battle in his hover Ferrari, press 1. If you want Calculon to double-check his paperwork, press 2."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 12 Oct 2018 @ 6:05am

        Re: Re: I beg to differ

        "So you end up with minimal branching, and it feels gimmicky—a curiousity rather than a practical advancement in entertainment."

        As with many things Netflix do, that's not the point. The point is to attract people with new shiny things, and then provide enough "sticky" content so that people continue to subscribe every month. This fulfils both of those criteria.

        "It's been done in films too. I remember the marketing for Mr. Payback in the 90s, but it goes back to 1967's Kinoautomat really."

        William Castle's Mr. Sardonicus used a fairly similar gimmick in 1961, giving audiences the option of choosing whether the villain lived or died at the end (although apparently the typical choice was so obvious they never actually bothered to film the one where he lived).

        There were probably others. But, again, the point isn't to do something that's never been done before, it's to get people to join up with Netflix and stay there. The Minecraft licence and branching narrative gimmicks will do that nicely for a while, among a sizeable enough audience to make it worthwhile..

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 11 Oct 2018 @ 9:57pm

    Its funny how Netflix thinks the internet is something different and special when its in Netflix' interests and thinks its just a 'broadcast platform' when it comes time to talk about maybe ponying up some of its profit to help pay for the network upgrades its business model is dependent on the telcos and ISP's to do.

    Netflix comprises something like 15% of US network traffic - b but they demand that everyone on a network pay the same amount no matter how much bandwith they're utilizing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 12 Oct 2018 @ 12:46am

      Ah the classics...

      That tired old argument? Have you no sense of mercy? I mean that argument's been shot so full of holes over the years the humane thing to do would be to just let it die already.

      Netflix's customers already pay for the content netflix sends them via those people paying the ISP's for their connections to the internet. ISP's demanding to be paid again are just demonstrating how greedy they are by attempting to double-dip, paid by their customers, and then insisting that they be paid again by netflix for the same content.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2018 @ 1:05am

      Re:

      Netflix pay their own bandwidth costs, and manage their own content delivery network to keep their load off of the common backbone. This mean that an ISP need only be responsible for the link from their connection to the backbone to you, a connection that you have already payed for.

      The fact that most of the companies complaining about Netflix not paying for bandwidth also just happen to also be cable TV suppliers suffering from cord cutting. This makes me think that they either want to cripple competition to cable TV or replace the income they are losing because of cord cutters.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 12 Oct 2018 @ 1:27am

        Re: Re:

        This makes me think that they either want to cripple competition to cable TV or replace the income they are losing because of cord cutters.

        'Or both. Both would be good.' - Cable TV

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 12 Oct 2018 @ 3:03am

      Re:

      "Netflix comprises something like 15% of US network traffic - b but they demand that everyone on a network pay the same amount no matter how much bandwith they're utilizing?"

      No, they demand that since they already pay for their bandwidth and their customers pay for their bandwidth (so, both sides of the transaction are being paid for), they should not be levied a 3rd time for the same bandwidth.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2018 @ 7:51am

      Re:

      Netflix pays for the bandwidth Netflix uses.

      This is literally the end of the conversation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2018 @ 8:59am

      Re:

      "Netflix comprises something like 15% of US network traffic - b but they demand that everyone on a network pay the same amount no matter how much bandwith they're utilizing?"

      Internet bandwidth is not a commodity traded upon the exchange like hog bellies and gold. There is no supply and demand dynamic pricing or sliding scale in which you pay more for each byte transmitted, at least not yet.

      Why should anyone pay more for each subsequent byte sent? Sounds a bit like a drug dealer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2018 @ 11:07am

    This is one of the coolest ideas I've seen out of Netflix.

    Inspiration from immersive theater could build onto the concept.

    Branch storylines along different rooms and areas, with option to follow differing paths with each watching.

    All the action takes place at the same time. An entire season taking place within one episode with option to follow different characters or events as they happen.

    Can seed rare events based on viewer interaction.

    To check out immersive theater in New York, check out Sleep No More. Or in San Francisco, The Speakeasy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Osiris, 12 Oct 2018 @ 11:57am

    They've been experimenting for a while

    Look up "Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale" on Netflix. It's an interactive choose your own adventure tale already released.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymoose, 12 Oct 2018 @ 1:21pm

    I just want to finally have Tex Murphy on the big screen. Is that too much to ask? (Yes I know I can connect my laptop to my TV, I just want it to be a show too)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christenson, 13 Oct 2018 @ 12:09am

    Wacky concept..

    So, we have a movie with a marble cake plot. What if some scenes were more video game than movie... like the next segment depends on whether the crowd does the right thing or is defeated...

    So an interactive part is followed by a fixed thread in the multiverse? Possibly with some consistency tweaks, like changing out a character that was killed?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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