It’s no secret that comics and video games have made lasting impressions at cinemas and on home television sets alike. Marvel has dominated the box office with best-selling blockbusters. And video game franchises such as Silent Hill and Prince of Persia have proven themselves as competitors in their respective genres. This cross-use of standalone mediums is an incredibly successful model, with fans of longstanding IPs gaining a new perspective of their favourite stories and universes through a different medium (though it could be said that the upcoming Tetris movie might be taking things too far…)
In the same way, television shows have had successful translations to the big screen. But why stop there? The conjunction of mediums is a lucrative venture, so isn’t it time to draw attention to the potential of TV IPs on digital platforms? With large and devoted audiences, TV IPs have a significant amount to gain from digital extensions. Yet once they have been broadcast they seemingly fade away from public attention (besides reruns) until a successful series sequel brings the show back into the limelight. Inf act, bar standard franchise merchandising and billboard advertising, a significant number of TV IPs lack large scale promotional content that reaches today’s digital screens.
Admittedly, there are a number of examples that show a successful integration of television into digital, especially when looking at digital extensions during shows. But there is much more that can be done with digital to take an IP’s content even further.
First of all, extensions can come in the form of promotional advertisements that take the launch of new shows beyond the impressions made by banners and creative website landing pages. By producing an interactive site that concerns itself with the content of the IP, viewers of the show are able to gain further insights to the characters and locations of the story. This creates enthusiasm and general interest for the show and hyping its content. A great example of this can be seen in the French TV show, The Returned (Les Revenants). Death isn’t the most entertaining concept, which is why Canal+ produced a brilliant interactive campaign to help bring the show’s story to life before its launch.
Another example of promotional extension can be seen in IPs with corresponding games. Following the success of the first season of Legend of Korra, Nickelodeon wanted to continue the show’s promotion as its episodes were being broadcast. This involved rewarding fans with incentives to continue the tale. Viewers were able to further engage with the IP’s storyline through a side-scrolling platform game where they were able to explore the worlds they had come to love.
In addition to the promotional values of IP extensions, digital platforms also provide optimal means for audiences to further engage with a show – to the point of allowing the viewer to be a main actor within the show itself. A prominent Dutch example of a fictional world being enhanced by digital can be seen in Feuten – a show about a fraternity. Users are able to create their own storyline within the walls of the mysterious fraternity. Not only did this digital campaign form lasting friendships, it allowed the fans’ personal stories to be influenced by the narrative of the show, placing them right at the center of the experience. Using the TV IP for a personal online experience, the show created a dedicated fan base that forged a new storyline as the starting point, something that would never have been possible without the extended value brought by digital mediums.
Finally, digital can be utilised to produce real standalone entities from TV, the furthest stretch of IP extensions. These builds can generate additional revenue by means that are beyond typified merchandising, or they can take form as an entirely independent production that plays on the content or story of the IP. An example of the first can be seen in Real Clothes and Hardcore Pawn; webshops that sell items from the show, directly to the audience. This ‘As Seen On TV’ approach allows viewers to further engage with the show, being able to tell stories through the purchases they make. At the other end of the scale are standalone productions that are entirely separate from the show. House of Anubis: The Song of Dreams and multiple Top Gear games are an example of this; a game that adapts the show’s universe and characters whilst offering an exclusive in-game storyline that the user can be part of. By telling stories with different formats, you can offer different perspectives and experiences to the audience, allowing them to take more enjoyment from their favourite shows.
With IP extensions, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface. Taking these three approaches into account, we’re always on the lookout for the next innovative combination of TV and digital. And what’s more, we’re excited to see what the industry can come up with.
Coen Doolaard is head of mobile at digital production agency MediaMonks.