Choose your own ending to shows on Netflix

Netflix viewers will get to opt for their own storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of Black Mirror (left), the Emmy-winning, science-fiction anthology series.
Netflix viewers will get to opt for their own storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of Black Mirror (left), the Emmy-winning, science-fiction anthology series.PHOTO: NETFLIX

NEW YORK • Think you can do better than Hollywood?

Netflix is about to let you decide how your favourite show will end.

The streaming service is developing a slate of specials that will let viewers choose the next storyline in a TV episode or movie, according to people familiar with the matter.

It expects to release the first of these projects before the end of this year, the sources added.

Viewers will get to opt for their own storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of Black Mirror, the Emmy-winning, science-fiction anthology series.

The show is famous for exploring the social implications of technology, including an episode where humans jockey to receive higher ratings from their peers.

The fifth season of the show is expected to be released in December.

The foray into choose-your-own-adventure programming represents a big bet on a nascent form of entertainment known as interactive TV.

As Netflix expands around the world, it is looking for new ways to lure customers.

It upended the business model of television by delivering new episodes of a season all at once - letting viewers watch shows on demand rather than live.

But so far, the two-decade-old company has done little to change the way shows are conceived or produced. It releases the same 25-minute-long sitcoms, hour-long documentaries and two-hour-long movies as other TV networks.

Netflix has already released a handful of episodes of choose-your-own-adventure animated programmes designed for kids.

Within the first couple of minutes of Puss In Book, the viewer must choose whether the pugilistic feline fights a god or a tree.

After watching one version, the person can go back and pick the other scenario.

The Black Mirror episode is the first of several experiments with live-action interactive programming for Netflix and the first interactive show designed for adult viewers.

The company has closed a deal for at least one more live-action project and is negotiating for the rights to others, said the sources.

Two of the projects are adaptations of video games, though Netflix has no plans to start releasing video games - contrary to recent reports.

The stories that branch off from the main narrative of Black Mirror will be more complex than the options in the kids' programming, though it remains to be seen just how complicated the show will be.

Consumer experience is paramount at Netflix, which employs executives who test everything, from the quality of mobile networks in Mumbai to Brazilians' preferences for subtitles versus dubbing.

Producers of interactive TV are hoping Netflix's growing investment is a sign that their time in the spotlight is approaching.

HBO, one of Netflix's fiercest rivals, released its first interactive TV show earlier this year.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the longer version of Mosaic was available in a separate app.

While many TV viewers have voted for candidates in reality programmes such as American Idol and The Voice, no narrative TV show that asked viewers to engage with the plot has become a big hit.

That could soon change, said Mr Jim Spare, chief operating officer of Eko, a company that produces interactive shows.

The widespread availability of high-speed Internet, prevalence of touch screens and interactive games have all laid the groundwork for shows that ask the viewer to engage.

"The time is right for interactive TV to become a mainstream experience," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2018, with the headline 'Choose your own ending to shows on Netflix'. Print Edition | Subscribe