Thanks for this heads up from fellow mentor at LAMP, David Jensen of Zeetools, for this little gem. Telemundo (NBC Universal owned) launched a VOD mystery series for Central and South American audiences, Barbara Luna, that had the first episode on television. Let me explain. What they did was have the stars of the show be guests on the most popular talk show, Ana Maria. So, as far as the audience was concerned, they were real people. As the show progresses they find out one of the guests who was supposed to attend was murdered. At the end of the show the guests are told they were part of a hoax, a fictional show, and they loved it! How about that for ‘alternate reality’? At the end of the talk show is a URL to go to the main webshow site. At that site the talk show is advertised in a side banner. As Jensen pointed out, the TV was driving the audience to the web, not the other way around. Once they are on the site (which I haven’t been able to find just yet), audiences can view the short episodes (20 in total), interview suspects and view security footage. The production was developed at the AFI Digital Content Lab. There is some information about it at Tracey Sweedlow’s itvt report, and here is quote from that post:
Shot on a shoestring budget in the course of a few very long days and nights, “Mystery Online Theater” is the DCL’s first original, scripted program. I asked William Via about the genesis of the project: “We really spent a lot of time on the script and made sure we got the storytelling right, letting the design and other elements come from that,” he explained. No repurposing here–and it shows! Notable features of the project include 1) a cross-promotional element with broadcast–the talk show in the mystery is an actual daily program on Telemundo featuring a popular, vociferous host; and 2) the manner in which supplemental material is layered in: viewers can see security camera footage (at one point, for example, the security cam reveals that several characters have been lying about their alibis), interviews with the show’s main characters, secondary video clips, and character bios. Live chats are planned with the show’s characters, and there will be an SMS update that viewers will be able to opt into.
But the Ana Maria event is more than cross-promotion. It is the actual first episode. It is content in itself. Marketing and entertainment are bosom buddies now, so we’ll see a lot more of this.