Netflix has been spending a storm on their original and co-production programming this year, with a reported $8 billion being sunk into programming. With budgets of unusual sizes (BOUSes), shows can experiment. Series like Maniac can push the boundaries of the imagination. Shows like Altered Carbon can create worlds where the person inside the brain is one actor, while the outer body is played by another actor. And now, Black Mirror Season 5 will try a "choose-your-own-adventure" format, introducing the first interactive streaming show to the Netflix lineup.
This is the first news out of Netflix on the ultra-secret Black Mirror Season 5. Since Netflix bought the rights to the series from Channel 4 beginning with Season 3, each installment of the anthology series has gotten more experimental. But Season 5 is going all out, with the idea the viewer can choose how the latest installment of one of the episodes of the series will end, making it so viewers at home can all watch different variations on the same story.
Black Mirror is supposedly only the beginning of the experiment. Rumor has it the streaming service is planning an entire series of specials, each of which will have the interactive format. Black Mirror will be the first established show to test it out.
According to Bloomberg, which first reported the news:
Viewers will get to choose their own storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of Black Mirror, the Emmy-winning science-fiction anthology series. The show is famous for exploring the social implications of technology, including an episode where humans jockey to receive higher ratings from their peers. The fifth season of the show is expected to be released in December.
As for what this could represent to Netflix down the line:
The foray into choose-your-own-adventure programming represents a big bet on a nascent form of entertainment known as interactive TV. As Netflix expands around the world, it’s looking for new ways to lure customers. By blending elements of video games with traditional television, the company could create a formula that can be applied to any number of series.
As Bloomberg notes, Netflix has already begun tinkering with interactive programs, but up until now, it's only been with children's programming. One such show, Puss In Boots, has the kid choose between the character choosing one option over another. But this would be the first time it would be used in adult programming
If Netflix can make interactive TV work, it would represent a second chance for the streaming service to change the face of television. Netflix already did this once, taking the idea of "binge-watching" a show, which many of their customers did, albeit with older TV series, and applying it to new releases. The resulting release format has affected how all streaming services who followed them have treated their shows, with broadcast even debating how to match such a thing. Interactive TV could change the landscape all over again.
Black Mirror Season 5 does not yet have a release date, but insiders expect it to arrive in December, around the same time Season 4 did last year.