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Netflix and Interactive Movies: “Are You Still Watching?”

Published on September 27, 2023, at 9:50 p.m.
by Carsyn Smiling.

A concept that Americans once let slip away is back again to reinvent the entertainment industry. Interactive movies were first introduced in the United States in 1967 and quickly faded away from the television space. However, Netflix has recently led a revival of this lost concept with a modern Generation Z twist.

Photo by @Dima Solomin via Unsplash

An interactive movie involves interactive media within the movie. These types of films give the viewer more of an active role in the decision-making for the movie. Each viewer can make alternate plot and character choices as they watch.

The benefits of an interactive component?

Public relations professionals aim to establish two-way communication with a target audience to build relationships. Adding an interactive component allows them to do just that. By giving consumers a seat at the table, professionals are able to learn more about their audience while establishing a strong connection with them over time. Storytelling can also be used to build customer loyalty by communicating in various ways to reach the targeted audiences.

The competitive edge?

Netflix has become a thought leader in the interactive movie scene, as it now has a slew of interactive movies and television shows. The interactive component has the potential to set it apart from other streaming services if the company chooses to focus on it. Honing in on a space that has been relatively untapped puts Netflix at an advantage to experiment and gather data on whether the new format fits its viewership’s fancy.

Netflix Vice President of Comedy Andy Weil said in an interview, “The team is going to continue to take bets in lots of areas versus just tripling down on only interactive storytelling.” This perspective shows consumers that Netflix is dedicated to creating content in the interactive realm, as well as exploring other innovative viewing options. I believe that Netflix should continue focusing on interactive media to stay ahead of other competitors.

Fate or fad?
Netflix’s most recent interactive debut was the film “Choose Love,” which included six different endings. In contrast, “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” also produced by Netflix, had over a trillion different choices throughout the series and five different endings.

Photo by @ronstick via Adobe Stock

Interactive features have been well-received by consumers, but these movies haven’t necessarily crushed the ratings compared to typical features. There could be many reasons for these lower ratings. In a blog explaining interactive films, Linshuang Wu revealed,“One of the top words generated from Black Mirror’s negative reviews is ‘bored[.]’”. I enjoy the suspense of not knowing what is coming next in a movie and I think getting the option to choose eliminates that suspense factor. It will take time to see if interactive movies are truly reemerging or if companies are simply harping on a dead trend.

Other streaming services such as HBO Max have begun looking into the interactive world. Earlier this year, HBO Max and AT&T partnered to create an immersive experience for viewers. The technology was able to pick up consumer body movement and language. While many streaming services are interested in new technology, few have invested the way Netflix has.

What’s next?
With the rise of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, interactive entertainment has great potential as we continue to evolve. Staying relevant and thinking ahead are imperative in public relations. It is up to public relations and marketing professionals to make decisions on what trends best fit their audience and brand.

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