The Age of Interactive Entertainment

The entertainment industry has become increasingly interactive as people take more control of the media they consume. Since the emergence of reality television, entertainment has become less passive with viewers playing an active role in the experience. As shows become readily available on the Internet, viewers have more power and more choice. Execs in the entertainment world are still tackling how to keep up with the evolving media space. Although the issue of monetization is yet to be resolved, developing an interactive and engaging experience to keep viewers’ attention will be essential.

The explosion of reality television contributed to the deepening level of engagement that has become expected among viewers. Several reality shows, which are profitable for studios since they tend to be significantly cheaper to produce than scripted series, captivate audiences as they take average people and launch them to stardom. Shows like “Real World” and “Survivor” grabbed audience attention by selecting everyday people to be cast members and contestants. Furthermore, reality shows have evolved to include direct participation among the masses. For example, the phenomenally popular show, “American Idol,” encouraged involvement by allowing viewers to choose the winner through actively voting via phone or text message every week. Audience members were no longer mindless viewers but were asked to take part in the decision-making process during a specific time window every week.

Consumers are becoming accustomed to taking more control of the entertainment they choose to enjoy. TiVo offers greater flexibility as people choose what television shows they want to watch and when. Additionally, the Internet is revolutionizing the entertainment industry. People can watch their favorite shows at their own convenience while also becoming involved in conversations about what they saw. David Carr recently pointed out on The Media Equation that consumers are turning to the Internet and social networks to get a daily dose of entertainment, news and commentary. Carr notes that particularly with talk shows and reality series there’s no longer a need to watch a full episode because it’s easy to find highlights and must-see moments on Facebook and Twitter.

Social media allow deeper levels of engagement as consumers can comment on shows, share news instantly and even interact with their favorite celebrities. No more sending fan letters confessing love via snail mail—Twitter lets users engage in a personal “conversation” with favorite movie and TV stars, music artists and sports heroes while following their thoughts and random musings online. People are no longer passive viewers and in some cases, consumers are becoming producers, creating their own media on YouTube and sharing it across a vast network of blogs and social communities.

Entertainment is not dead, it’s just evolving. Ultimately, it has become increasingly important for the entertainment industry to invent more advanced and original ways to extend an entertainment experience across multiple channels, while allowing for greater user participation.