Television is in the midst of a huge evolution right now. Not only are there numerous changes happening technologically in how we access and view TV shows, but also in how those shows are being created.
Some are calling it a new “Golden Age” for the medium.
These changes will likely start to influence all of the content we consume.
So, if you’re in the business of content strategy or creation for your company, here are five trends from the world of TV you may want to keep an eye on.
1. Serialize stories.
The most often-discussed change in television today is how we consume it. People are increasingly watching their TV online, binge-watching many episodes of a series in a row, time-shifting their viewing (and often matching up their streaming pace to sync with real-time air dates) and viewing content on multiple screens at multiple points in time, (but still expecting to have a seamless content experience.)
So if you aren’t breaking up your content into more bite-sized, serialized chunks, you may want to start in 2014. Also, seed that content with more perks for the people who will view the series as a whole. Take your cues from the most recent season of Arrested Development, which was created with callbacks, call-forwards and interwoven plots. Start by identifying a central arc for your story, then sprinkle plot points supporting (and related to) that arc throughout the series.
2. Get to the payoff quicker.
With so much content to choose from, TV shows need to deliver stories that are consistently compelling. So creators are increasingly using tactics like speed plotting to keep audiences hooked. For example, where once audiences may have been happy to watch a couple dance around their feelings for each other for years, now content creators are giving in to the demands of shippers for their favorite characters to hook-up sooner.
Showrunners are adding bigger, wilder twists to each episode, hoping that viewers will watch in real time instead of waiting to catch up on DVR, since social media could spoil everything in the meantime. There’s a reason all of your favorite major TV characters died this year.
Your content will need to be amazing too in order to attract audiences and compel them to sit and read for more than a page or watch for more than a minute. To make this happen, you may need to front-load your content or stories with more creativity to hook your audience and have a bigger pay-off at the end to keep them coming back for more.
3. Involve your audience
Television consumption has become a more social process, and content creators are taking note. By reading tweets and posts before seasons begin and while they are in process, authors now have a chance to crowd source ideas and strengthen their stories.
This doesn’t mean you need to start creating all of your content according to your audience’s whims, too. But it does mean you shouldn’t only be using social media to publish and broadcast content. Social media needs to become a vital tool in helping you understand your audience so you can create the kind of content they want to consume.
4. Darken the tone.
The past decade has been the age of the anti-hero (which many say began with the launch of The Sopranos in 2000 and culminated with the conclusion of Breaking Bad in 2013.) These shows have indicated that some audiences want their content to be more visceral, compelling and revolutionary (what I’ve referred to in the past as “OMG TV”) not because we love bad people, but because we’re perhaps bored with always watching people be good.
Consider this trend as a cue to tell stories that are more sad or more surprising in tone than what you may be used to. Audiences want to be surprised. So don’t be afraid to try to surprise them.
5. Lighten the load.
While traditional television shows still tend to be locked into thirty or sixty-minute blocks and 22 or 13 episode-long seasons, seasons are being shortened, and web series are being launched that tell their stories in tighter time frames, (For example, the web series Burning Love immaculately spoofs hour-long episodes of The Bachelor in as short as eight minutes.)
Yes, it is possible to tell a full story arc and take your audience on a fully-realized journey with your content in less time than you probably think you can. So set as a goal in 2014 to make your content as tight and tidy as possible.