The hidden agenda behind Netflix's push for more interactive shows

'Choose your own adventure' shows feel like more personalised entertainment, but they're really just mining us for data, writes Andrea Nagel

27 January 2019 - 00:00 By Andrea Nagel

Used to be, in the olden days, entertainment was an interactive experience. There were fêtes, carnivals, circuses, fencing, theatre complete with rotten tomatoes and, for the more blood-loving among us, public executions.
Then came TV and changed the game completely. Now in the Netflix age, you barely have to think, let alone interact. Algorithms recommend what you should watch, autoplay cues up the next episode, leaving you responsible for nothing but your passive gaze and the minimal requirement of not dozing off.
You're not even required to remember anything you've watched - we don't have enough memory capacity to retain much of the deluge of content that's available. I bet we'd watch the same show over and over again if the various streaming devices didn't keep a record of what's already been viewed.
The executives at Netflix, however, are forecasting a backlash to all this passivity, and rightly so when kids in their millions are turning to video games for a little more interaction.

At the end of 2017 the streaming giant piloted a selection of interactive kids shows, Puss in Boots and Buddy Thunderstruck, peppered with prompts asking young viewers to pick a narrative direction: should Puss kiss Dulcinea or shake her hand? Should Buddy and Darnell have a Wet Willie contest or work out and "get jacked"?
With the recent success of the dystopian series Black Mirror's Bandersnatch, Netflix has decided to invest more money in the gamification of TV. Bandersnatch tells the story of a video-game designer who tries to adapt a choose-your-own-adventure novel that drives its author insane. Netflix executives say there are many such stories being developed...

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.