Netflix kicks off Your Own Adventure stories for kids – TechCrunch


Netflix today announcement the start of ‘interactive’ stories on its service – a sort of ‘choose your own adventure’ style of storytelling, where viewers decide what happens next. The new stories, the development of which has been rumor earlier this year, will initially target Netflix’s younger viewers, the company said, noting that children in particular are already inclined to “play” with their favorite characters, as well as touch and swipe across their screens.

The move doesn’t necessarily rule out bringing a similar format to adult viewers at a later date, but Netflix has yet to announce any plans in this area.

Early stories available include “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale,” which launches worldwide today, and “Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile,” which will be released on July 14. The third branching story, as Netflix calls these stories, is “Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout,” which will arrive next year.

The story of “Cat in the Book” is interrupted 13 times to offer choices and offers two different endings. It can last from 18 to 39 minutes, depending on the viewers’ choices.

Netflix says the titles will be available on most of its TV platforms, as well as iOS devices. The Netflix website, Android devices, Chromecast, and Apple TV do not support interactive content at this time.

As kids watch the story, they will be presented with different character choices, allowing them to shape the story and action as they go. This means that these same titles can be watched over and over again, with different results.

Ahead of the launch, Netflix said it spoke with parents to get feedback on the idea. Parents were encouraged that the format itself is more engaging and that their children are making decisions.

But launching the stories is still an experience for Netflix – something it says it is able to do because of the freedom to be an internet-based business. The goal now is to see how users actually interact with the content and learn from those results. The company is looking to find out which storylines are popular, whether or not the stories encourage repeat viewing, and more.

The format could make sense to Netflix as a way to better entertain children – which could in turn help attract and retain families to serve Netflix. However, while Choosing Your Own Adventure has worked well for books and even later for digital via apps and games, translating the format to video takes more production time than traditional linear programming, and involves also its own technical challenges. For example, how to make fast forward and rewind work when the story has multiple branches.

However, more broadly, interactive stories are just a twist of an already common trend in children’s television: breaking the fourth wall. From the early days of children’s programming on Sesame Street, then to more recent shows like “Dora,” the characters speak to children through television and ask them to engage or take action. This has proven to help kids retain more information, if the program is educational, but it also makes Netflix’s new interactive format more accessible to younger viewers.

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