AToMiC: CBC takes off with a new narrative

In its first ever transmedia execution, the broadcaster launches an interactive game for its show, Arctic Air.
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A run of the mill marketing campaign is not what the CBC ordered for its new winter show, Arctic Air. The Canadian broadcaster is taking a novel approach to engaging the audience of the series, which clocked in over a million viewers during the pilot episode.

Pooling efforts with Vancouver-based Switch United, the CBC created, and launched this week, an online graphic short story and game entitled “Arctic Air Adventure” which will reside on its website for the duration of the show’s first season.

There are three acts that break up the story, with the closing of each chapter being marked with a short game such as hopping from one ice block to another, hunting for food with a slingshot and flying a plane with a busted propeller. Players can show off their accomplishments by sharing a progress report on Facebook, as well as by challenging their friends to play.

Fergus Heywood, senior producer of interactive, CBC says that the broadcaster is trying to shake itself free of a long-entrenched expectation in broadcasting, saying that the belief that viewers will come to them is no longer a realistic one. Rather, he says, broadcasters have to extend the story onto additional platforms and let them own part of the experience.

“When I think about our competitors, I don’t just think about other networks, or even the premium cable channels,” he says. “I think about Facebook Xbox, YouTube and any one of a hundred other things that are vying for the most important thing [we are looking to get from] the audience – their attention.”

The transmedia game is in keeping with the show themes of adventure and exploration, and Heywood says that it was important to create the game in context of the series, which is why it has an element of danger and survival.

“Alongside the interactive [game] we also produced a short web video series that gave additional insight into some of the characters and allowed us to be a little more lighthearted than the show typically is, adding depth to the world of the show,” he says.

“We like to approach production with the notion that stories and characters exist in a universe that lives and breathes regardless of whether it is being watched,” adds Heywood. “What were characters doing before we started watching them on TV? What will they do afterward?”

Catherine Winckler, creative director, Switch United agrees with developing a story that goes beyond the TV screen by saying that consumers demand more information and more back-stories on the subjects and characters that interest them.

“The story worlds that are being built around quality content just make sense to the broadcaster who will see heightened audience engagement for the show, on the network website, and as a build for multiple seasons,” she adds.

While the Arctic Air game is the first of its kind from the CBC, Heywood says that viewers can expect to see more initiatives that steer away from cookie-cutter formulas, with more plans to extend its shows in new digital directions in the works.

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