sello Extending TV on the Web

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While browsing Hulu recently, I discovered that the site had “enhanced” versions of episodes of one of my favorite shows, Battlestar Galactica. After clicking on the episode to find out what it was, I was extremely excited to discover that it was basically an episode of Battlestar Galactica, along with running commentary by Ron Moore – the show’s creator.

Now Ron’s been doing commentary on episodes pretty much ever since BSG started. It started out as just a podcast, which I could either listen to without seeing the video in front of me, or I could put onto my IPod, go home and run BSG from my DVR and listen to commentary at the same time. Besides the obvious inconvenience with this setup, synchronization of start times of the podcast and the show needed to be near perfect, and on top of that, I had to stop the podcast when the commercials were shown or my sync would be off. Fortunately the commentary came on the DVDs, but I’d have to wait months for those to come out and by that time, having to go back and rewatch the entire previous season with commentary seemed a daunting task.

It seems like such a simple solution, but having Hulu add the commentary to episodes of BSG the day after they air satisfies my obsessive need to get as much BSG as quickly as I can. In this way, the show is not only making money off of me watching on television and buying the DVDs, but there is now this third revenue stream as I watch it again on Hulu. And it barely cost anything extra for the show’s marketing or production budget.

Many shows are taking the transmedia approach to storytelling these days by creating webisodes, alternate reality games and other content that can be viewed on the web between shows or seasons. As Jesse Alexander, producer of Heroes says:

It is no longer enough for a mass media content creator to understand storytelling for only one medium. For the current, and new generation of creators to survive, and build sustainable work, they must embrace the transmedia approach. They must understand the capabilities of technology to reach a vast audience, and adjust their storytelling to suit the way that audiences parse information differently on each platform. While traditional entertainment models are collapsing. Transmedia entertainment is expanding.

Besides BSG and Heroes, shows like The Office and Lost are all taking part in extending their narrative away from solely oldteevee.

I’m glad that the talent and creators of shows are starting to realize that the internet is not only a way to market their product, but also a way to create more revenue from fans of their shows which will in turn prompt these fans to promote the show, through sharing the content that engages them on sites like Facebook or Twitter. And it’s important for the talent and creators to be involved, otherwise, we’ll just land up with the same old repurposed trailers and clips content that we’ve had for years.

I’m excited about the future of TV and I look forward to even more of my favorite shows creating great and unique online content. Damages, I’m looking at you!

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