CBS Tries On Transmedia Storytelling

Harper’s Island is a new TV show from CBS that airs tonight at 10:00 pm. Harper’s Globe is the show’s fancy web component.
“This is a different show for us. This is a home-run swing,” said Kelly Kahl, senior executive VP at CBS. By offering fully baked storylines for TV and the web, the network may be able to amass a bigger total audience. CBS is selling the ad inventory for both in packages.

According to my former colleague at BFG, Sloane Kelley:

The pre-seed of video content is one interesting part of the series but what’s notable about the Web-TV venture is that it’s bringing CBS into the realm of social TV. They’re not treating the Web as a second box for displaying content. Instead, they’re making the site a place for fans to interact and participate in the story. They’ve incorporated a robust social networking component, which includes communication with characters and other viewers, and the ability to contribute to a wiki that follows the storyline.
The content is also available in an embeddable widget or on the iPhone. Either way, it gives viewers immediate access to video, the online discussion and of course the show’s Twitter feed.

Sounds to me like someone from CBS has been studying the work of Henry Jenkins at MIT. I know I have. Here’s how Jenkins describes transmedia storytelling:

Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.