Pay TV movie channel EPIX is creating 360-degree immersive video experiences around some of its original series this year.
“We’re all so excited about immersive storytelling and virtual reality,” said Nora Ryan, EVP and chief of staff at EPIX, speaking at INTX this year.
“The real point here is to use technology to design a better experience for the subscriber.”
EPIX, owned by Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount through the joint venture Studio 3 Partners, hopes to use 360-degree storytelling to keep viewers engaged with its original content. The 360-degree video experience is functioning as companion content for the series, the latest evolution of extended storytelling that TV networks have been experimenting with using digital mini-series and second screen apps.
“EPIX was created in anticipation of viewership emerging across platforms and devices, to that point of designing the experience to target your audience, for us the younger generation,” Ryan said. “Now we’re moving into original scripted series, and we’re using virtual reality and 360-degree experiences to engage fans in that scripted programming.”
At INTX last month, Ryan and EPIX senior director of programming and product Shane Lindley unveiled the 360-degree video experience the company has been working on for its upcoming spy original series “Berlin Station.”
New spy drama Berlin Station: chosen for 360-degree experience
The 360-degree site has gamified some elements of the TV show and produced an interactive experience that lets viewers explore different subplots and characters by interacting with them within the city of Berlin, where the show is set.
The experience will be released sometime in July on the “Berlin Station” Website. “We’re focused on360-degree experiences because we think that gets to a much broader audience that can easily access the content without the headgear,” Ryan said. “Our digital team is designing a very unique overlay that will really take viewers deeper inside the plotlines.”
The experience transports the viewer to a location in the series, where the viewer can watch a scene unfold and even participate in it. For example, it lets the viewer meet with one of the characters of the show and receive top secret information from her. “We’re putting the audience somewhere they’ve never been before. That’s one of the really cool things about VR and 360,” Lindley said. “There can be different things happening at different locations all at the same time [within the video], getting that content experience beyond the show that you can really immerse yourself in. We have a whole content matrix built out with hundreds of these hotspots that will extend that story.”
The initial 360 video will become available a few months before the series premieres on EPIX in the fall. Then, the 360 experience will expand with each new episode that airs. “The extended storytelling via virtual reality will get deeper and deeper and give people alternate story lines,” Ryan said. “The digital team will be collaborating with [the writers] to say where else can we take the viewer, what are the backstories of some of these characters and what else can be happening that didn’t make it into that hour this week.”
The intended audience for both the series and its 360-degree video Website is Millennials, Ryan said. The 360-degree initiative is one of a suite of multi-screen strategies EPIX is employing to keep those viewers engaged with the pay TV network and its content. “We’re all talking about the Millennial generation and are they more or less inclined to talk pay TV from the traditional providers,” Ryan said. “What we see is that if they’re really aware of TV Everywhere and if they really can access their content across multiple platforms beyond the TV, they are more inclined both to subscribe and to keep the service. The Millennial subscribers are much more inclined to be using across multiple platforms.”
If the Website proves popular enough among viewers, Ryan said EPIX will expand the feature to more of its original series. “Having that …
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