The BBC has just launched cyber comedy mystery series Dixi, its first standalone online interactive drama for kids–further proof if it is needed that for a new generation, TV is fast becoming the second screen.
Dixi is an online-only comedy drama about a teenage girl called Shari who devotes much of her time sharing her experiences through pictures and videos via a fictitious social network called Dixi then turns detective when her page is hacked.
A selection of interactive content both interwoven with and running alongside the video webisodes, which will play out in the U.K. Monday to Friday across the next three weeks, include games, web chats and an actual version of the social networks for users to view.
Created by writer Dan Berlinka and produced by Kindle Entertainment, the series provides both encouragement for children’s creativity online and advice on the potential dangers surrounding online privacy and cyber bullying, CBBC (Children’s BBC) controller Cheryl Taylor explains. “The sheer number of places children can go to be entertained has grown significantly in recent years with many consuming programs (on demand) on iPlayer, and video and games on tablet and mobile,” she says. “It’s an exciting time to be creative where there are so many new ways of communicating with our audience.”
Online exclusivity allowed the creators to pack more content into each webisode and maintain a fast-paced and snack-able narrative.
“A rich mix of additional content including videos, profiles and web chats for the audience to join will give us instant reaction and feedback from fans,” Taylor adds. “We’re keen to learn as much as possible about how our audience choose to engage with it and why. We have several interactive dramas in development and we’ll use this feedback to help shape even more engaging content in the near future.”
The launch of Dixi follows a number of recent CBBC innovations in digital interactive entertainment and storytelling.
Just last month, CBBC launched its first play-along game show, Ludos, which allows viewers to download an app to compete in real time with the TV show’s contestants as they battle to defeat a dastardly space villain.
The iOS and Android app uses audio watermarking technology which will also support a companion app to a show called Gory Games, a spin-off from the highly popular British kids series Horrible Histories, due to launch in April.
Taylor’s immediate focus is on increasing the sophistication of online offerings. However, a longer term possibility is developing content that merges live video and gaming on a single screen–offering users a play along experience over-laying one half of a mobile’s screen, for example, to enable the audience to “dual screen” on a single device.
“We’re keen to increase the sophistication and talk-ability of our content and Dixi is a great example of trying something new,” she explains. “If it works, it might evolve into a long form show that transmits on CBBC. Or we may choose to develop it further online. You could see this as a great and more responsive way to pilot new characters and ideas.”
Elsewhere in the CBBC portfolio moves are afoot to enhance popular and established TV brands with a diverse array of additional content. And the reason’s simple.
Keeping up with the fast-paced change in new technologies and the evolving audience behaviors they generate is a major challenge for content creators, Taylor points out. Besides, die hard fans demand it and, she adds: “We don’t want to disappoint them.”
Dixi launches online on February 24.