A conversation at work:
“I wonder what’ll be in the adverts for Lost tonight?” I pondered, thinking about the imminent ‘Lost Experience’ (aka ‘we didn’t want to call it an ARG because it might put people off and look as if we didn’t think of it first’).
“It’s going to be a phone number.”
“I think it’ll be either a phone number or a blipvert,” I said.
“It’s a phone number, they said so on the web.”
“Huh,” I said. “What I want to know is who’s doing this game. I’m pretty sure it’s not anyone I know. It just doesn’t feel right. Plus it’s kind of confusing who’s behind it, with ABC, Channel 4 and some Australian company all acting as if they’re making it.”
“Yeah,” I agreed.
“At least they’ve finally managed to make me watch Lost on Channel 4 now.”
“Yeah… I don’t think I can be bothered. I’ll just read about it on the web.”
There isn’t much that will make me commit to watching TV at a particular time. I suppose that if I was in the US I would probably manage to watch Lost and 24 on TV, mainly because they’re first-run over there, but even then I might be tempted to just use a Tivo. The way it is now, it’s Bittorrent all the way, I’m afraid; there’s no way I’m going to put up with being months behind the US when it comes to quality TV, and then be forced to watch TV without the option to pause or rewatch a particularly good bit.
Now, that’s not to say that appointment to view is dead; it can certainly work in many cases for first-run eps for big shows. The problem appears when TV and radio networks expect people to make an appointment to view a particular show that has already been shown once elsewhere in the world. What’s the point of that? It’s not like the viewer is getting any more out of the experience by being forced to watch it at 8pm on Tuesday; might as well make it available on the web with some commercials, streamable at any time (which, indeed, ABC is beginning to do). However, when you can offer the viewer or player a real reason to make an appointment to view or take part in a game at a specific time – perhaps because they’ll be interacting with live persons, whether they be game characters or other players – they’ll be more willing to play along.
While I was at GDC in San Jose this year, I had the odd experience of idly turning on the TV and seeing a first-run episode of 24. My first reaction was, ‘Huh, I haven’t seen this episode before.’ I then realised that in the real world, TV doesn’t just magically appear on Bittorrent sites – it actually gets broadcast first! As it was, I just set my laptop to download shortly after the episode finished…