Late last year, Netflix surprised subscribers with a new original release that was nothing like anything people had seen before from the world’s top source of streaming movies and TV shows. In fact, it was nothing like anything anyone had seen before from any of the popular streaming services out there. It was a new installment of Black Mirror, the popular dark anthology series Netflix had acquired a few years earlier. But there was something special about this particular episode.
The one-off called Black Mirror: Bandersnatch followed a young programmer named Stefan Butler as he created a video game in the 1980s based on an old choose-your-own-adventure fantasy novel. Actually, “followed” isn’t the best word to use here. The show didn’t merely follow Butler’s story, it let viewers write the programmer’s story themselves. Much like the choose-your-own-adventure novel on which Butler’s game was based, Bandersnatch stopped at various points in the show and asked the viewer to help choose what happened next. It’s an exciting and innovative format that brings a new interactive element to living room entertainment, and it’s something Netflix just confirmed it will focus on much more moving forward.
Speaking at a media and entertainment conference in India called FICCI-Frames, Netflix’s VP of product Todd Yellin confirmed that the streaming giant plans to create more interactive content like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. In fact, the executive said that Netflix plans to double down on similar content, signalling a much bigger focus on content that creates more viewer involvement and engagement.
“It’s a huge hit here in India, it’s a huge hit around the world, and we realized, wow, interactive storytelling is something we want to bet more on,” Yellin said in his keynote speech at FICCI-Frames, as Variety reported. “We’re doubling down on that. So expect over the next year or two, to see more interactive storytelling. And it won’t necessarily be science fiction, or it won’t necessarily be dark. It could be a wacky comedy. It could be a romance, where the audience gets to choose, should she go out with him or him.”
Opinions were split on Bandersnatch itself, though far more people seem to have enjoyed the episode than hated it. More importantly for Netflix, however, is the fact that people seemed to love the interactive aspect of the show. Creating hours of extra content and allowing users to make decisions for a character in the show generated a huge amount of buzz, and it’s something people continued to talk about long after it was released in late December. Netflix clearly plans to build on that buzz, and it’ll be interesting to see how the company plans to make similar content unique moving forward.