The Revolution will Not be Televised

DAY 5: We interrupt our scheduled wibbling for the first of a series of planned observations of reality. This Saturday? It is time to remind you all about the concept of TRANSMEDIA and how, in the space of a week, that concept has utterly altered the entire course of entertainment.

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Bandersnatch is a work of undoubted genius, created by Charlie Brooker who remains right in the front carriage of the Sci-Fi Alternate Futures ARE STILL COOL EVEN IF THEY’RE FUCKING SCARY Hype Train. However, let’s be clear, other people have been doing this shit for years: ‘choice’ in fiction has existed in video games, books, even films for quite some time, well before this Netflix original came along. Working across platforms isn’t new either…

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So, why is everybody so excited? In the simplest terms, Brooker’s the first person to shove on a particular set of wheels and throw engine into the chassis that’s been crying out to be redesigned since it became apparent what computer code can do if you tell a story with it. Here is the fuel of pretty much every Sci-Fi future: one screen provides all. The thing that presents both news and offers entertainment also grants possibility to alter and shape reality as you see fit. Given the building blocks of a story, each individual gets to decide both victor and reward, with thousands of possible variant versions.

Television ascends again as the ultimate serotonin delivery device.

The bigger irony right now, of course, is that if you try and access Bandersnatch through the smartest of smart TV’s, you’re met with a compilation of Black Mirror protagonists from series past apologising that ‘sorry, you can’t watch this episode on this device.’ If you want true interactivity, go watch TV on a Tablet, phone, PC, Laptop or Games console instead. The one TV ‘drama’ that will redefine storytelling going forward cannot be viewed on a dumb, flat screen.

Overnight, everybody’s non-code operated gogglebox got rendered totally and completely obsolete.

Gil Scott-Heron was a visionary, and non net-savvy TV companies might have a bit of a problem going forward. Well, not a problem per se, but organisations such as Sky will be looking long and hard at their set-top boxes, realising that catch-up TV is great and all that but they are yet again behind the curve. The day Netflix launch their fully interactive rival in collaboration with Disney and UEFA all bets are off as to what you’ll want linked up to the ‘TV’.

The future is no longer sending signals to a screen and expecting that to be enough.

Suddenly, TV has the opportunity to combine everything in the one place you want it. No more PC’s in the corner of a room: run it from the widescreen HD central screen, transfer it to a tablet before taking it everywhere. One core processor unit oversees and dictates every form of interactivity in your house. That same Home Entertainment Unit is Alexa’s search facilities and Siri’s voice combined with choose your own drama shows, themostatic controls plus lighting dimmer switches, with the kids homework and your favourite FPS, all voice activated.

Esports will vie for prominence with real sports, but not watching teams of young people competing via controllers. Live sports provide an unexpected new industry : all computer sports games will sign deals with broadcasters to provide means by which players can allow their favourite team to win both Cup and League. Interspersing historical footage with computer generated graphics so real, you’ll never notice the difference and suddenly, choose your own outcome versions of every sporting event in history becomes possible.

There will be a backlash, of course: Traditionalists will shun all new style visual media and return to VHS, Laserdiscs and DVD’s as the only version of entertainment that matters. Books will become their own unique currency, with people hand-producing their own versions of great historical novels with unique, personal twists. Then, there are those who’ll have original TV signals directed directly into their optic nerves, eventually choosing to spend the rest of their existence

only as brains in jars…

As a writer, it’s fun to consider the consequences of things such as Bandersnatch in a wider context. Undoubtedly, the effect of social media on news and entertainment is beginning to alter how the collective consciousness absorbs information. With such new possibilities on the horizon, conventional TV will have to undergo some fairly significant changes in order to embrace such technologies, but if there’s enough demand, it will happen.

Old style TV units and broadcasting mediums are on notice. Aerials on houses will become a thing of the past. Everything is heading towards a future where ‘smart’ and ‘interactive’ beat everything: whether that’s through a fibre connection or via satellite is yet to be decided. The next year also gives Netflix, Amazon and the digitally native platforms a massive advantage over traditional TV. If I were Disney, for instance, I’d DEFINITELY be looking at launching my own dedicated streaming service to take advantage…

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Expect a Disney ‘make your own TV show’ very soon indeed, and once they start it, we’re all doomed.