Can transmedia content actually increase traditional TV ratings?

Guy Gadney

Guy Gadney has been working on two transmedia projects that tie in to long-running TV series testing the theory that interactive content is better for upping viewership than social media buzz.

Some television dramas transcend being called a ‘program’ and become part of a national identity. These are shows which run for series spanning decades and can survive a complete cleanse of the cast while ratings continue to be measured in decent percentages of the population.

Recently we have been commissioned to work with two of these shows. One is the popular Underbelly series for which we are building a game titled Underbelly: Skirmish. The second project we are working on has more profound results on the future of television engagement. In July, we launched a nine-week transmedia project for the Dutch broadcaster RTL. The project revolves around their iconic daily soap opera known as GTST.

This show – based on the 1980s Australian format The Restless Years – is now into its 24th season, and attracts around 10 per cent of the Dutch population five nights a week.

RTL was keen to see if transmedia could increase the engagement levels of the audience, giving a new angle, and possibly impacting TV ratings.

Last year, Nielsen put out research that a nine per cent increase in social media ‘buzz volume’ corresponds to a one per cent increase in ratings.

We believe that with richer transmedia content, we could do even better.

The project for GTST, based around Tim, a new character in the show, was a rich mobile application. It opened up new content each week for the nine-week summer break in the show: exclusive video, notes and Tim’s diary entries, mini-games, map challenges, competitions and prizes. The first episode of the next series was exclusively streamed into the app a week prior to transmission.

The results were announced at MIPCOM in Cannes in October: one in six viewers downloaded the app (280,000), more than 4m games were played and it generated a significant qualitative boost to the brand’s engagement.

The key stat was measured when the new series relaunched. From a previous average of 1.5m viewers, the new series premiered with 1.92m viewers, a rise of 25 per cent. In a television environment where small percentage point fluctuations are big news, we believe that the GTST project points clearly to the future of audience engagement, marketing strategies and delivering ratings success.

Guy Gadney is a director of The Project Factory.

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