Sending your Audience to Space

Who doesn’t watch television within easy reach of their phone, iPad or laptop? It seems that the art of enjoying a television show is severely diminished if we cannot multi-task and surf the web during the episode. While this may mean that people are paying less attention to the TV, it suggests a pretty powerful way to engage consumers.

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Last week, I wrote an article about the increasing prevalence of mobile banking during prime time television. It appears that the most popular time of day to complete this tiresome chore is while you are watching The Voice or Masterchef. But the fact that people are dividing their attention between the television and mobile screen is not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, it presents an opportunity to actually increase their engagement with the television show.

Television stations have already cottoned onto this idea with the introduction of apps such as Fango which allow audience members to answer quiz questions, post their thoughts about the show and interact with other viewers. However, maybe it is time that the actual television shows themselves jumped on board!

I was watching one of the many repeats of The Big Bang Theory recently and was struck by the opportunities this show possesses to capture their audience’s attention across multiple screens. Let me explain . . .

The episode that I was watching was during a story arc where Howard, an engineer and Astronaut, was spending time on the International Space Station. In this episode, he was being picked on by the other astronauts and was seeking the help of his wife via several video calls. Throughout the course of the episode the audience heard about the latest prank that the astronauts had pulled on poor Howard who was completely out of his comfort zone. But one particular prank stuck with me.

While he was asleep one night, some of the astronauts took a spacewalk and glued an alien mask to the outside of his window. Howard then tells his wife that when he woke up he screamed for nine minutes and the whole experience was captured on video which was then becoming a viral sensation on YouTube. In fact, he tells his wife “You can see it if you want, it is on YouTube. Google ‘Astronaut screams for nine minutes’”.

The increasing prevalence of phone use while watching television would probably suggest that I am not the only person who actually googled ‘Astronaut screams for nine minutes’ when I heard this. However, the search only comes up with a series of videos made by dedicated fans using a picture of Howard in space and adding a soundtrack featuring nine minutes of screaming.

I can tell you that I was not the only person to do this because those videos have a combined viewing count of a little over half a million views. And that only takes into account the first page of videos and the number of people who actually clicked on the non-The Big Bang Theory videos. Imagine how many times that phrase was googled when the episode first aired and viewers came up empty handed because there weren’t even any fan videos.

This is not the only time this show has referred to video footage. There is supposedly video footage of Leonard and Sheldon wrestling each other at the presentation of a paper. There is a speech delivered by a drunk Sheldon at an awards ceremony which was uploaded. There is a low budget horror movie called Serial Ape-ist which starred the aspiring actress, Penny. And these are just of the top of my head. No doubt there are many more references to specific The Big Bang Theory events that ended up on YouTube.

So here is my question. Why not make them come true?

People are searching for these videos anyway, so why not add another dimension of reality to the show and engage the audience on their phones as well as the internet. Adding high quality footage of Leonard and Sheldon wrestling at a physics presentation, Sheldon’s drunk speech or a trailer for Serial Ape-ist could only drag some of that attention back to the television show rather than your audience’s online banking or emails. It would increase their engagement with the television show AND it would allow consumers to interact with the episode on two screens instead of one.

It wouldn’t take much effort to create these little extras, it wouldn’t diminish the episode if the audience didn’t see them . . . but it would increase the enjoyment ten-fold of those who did!

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