A Reflection of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

If you had to choose for your friend Stefan whether he should eat Sugar Puffs or Frosties for breakfast, what would you decide? Would it affect your decision if I told you that many lives that could be swayed by this choice were hanging in balance? In Bandersnatch, the virtual interactive film part of the Black Mirror series on the streaming site Netflix, the viewer is forced to make choices that alter the direction of the story, much like the popular series of books from the eighties. This particular film follows a troubled young video game designer named Stefan who, in what seems to be a sort of Inception-like allusion, is trying to adapt a choose-your-own-adventure book into a game. By capitalizing on a previously extinct style of entertainment mostly found in children’s books, implementing the interactive “choose-your-own-adventure” idea may be Netflix’s best marketing ploy yet.

One of the greatest financial advantages of Netflix’s interactive format is the sheer difficulty in attempting to pirate these films. Plenty of shows, consisting of linear films or episodes, can be found for free on international sites which steal potential Netflix consumers. Without being able to pirate interactive films like Bandersnatch anywhere else, combined with the mass popularity it has received, consumers will be drawn to sign up for Netflix accounts. This is especially important with the rise of competitor streaming platforms such as Hulu or Vudu, who try to use Live TV or cheaper prices to lure customers away from Netflix. With their dominant share of the interactive film market, Netflix is poised to remain on top.

Another great benefit of Bandersnatch’s style is that it can gather a plethora of data from user participation that can then be used to create an internal programmatic marketing infrastructure. Think about how the interconnected decision-making can allow Netflix to understand patterns about what viewers want to see based on what they choose to see. Previously, Netflix and other streaming sites had to solely focus on the data gathered through how users engaged with their content, such as the shows they watch, the duration they watched each show, and when they watch these types of films. The new data presented by interactivity is indicative of real-world decisions like product preference, musical taste, and engagement with human behavior.

Finally, the film’s puzzle-like nature encourages more active fan engagement than most projects. Players decide how to watch; they can try tactics such as creating the most interesting episode for their personal preference, or they may even attempt to trick the show or themselves. The manner in which you proceed can take you down one of a trillion different unique story combinations. Not only does this create intrigue as each user can have a different story to tell, but it also allows account holders to play through the story multiple times without a feeling of boredom. This is enough to both lure new customers as well as retain current users as neither do not want to miss out on such an exciting tale.

Watching television used to simply involve turning on an appliance that in turn shuts down your brain, for the most part. Now, there is the opportunity to provide an entirely different experience. So, Sugar Puffs or Frosties?