Viacom’s VH1 embeds transmedia storytelling technology into US drama series Hit the Floor
Viacom Media Network is embedding transmedia storytelling technology into its US drama series Hit the Floor which aired this week on its VH1 channel. The media owner is using the technology, called Story Farm, which has been developed by UK content design and creation company Somethin’ Else. Somethin’ Else will work closely with the VH1 production team to “bring the series’ characters alive” across all digital platforms throughout the ten-part series. This will entail the extension of the characters’ fictional lives through social media channels, incorporating prescripted interactions with each other and also fans on Facebook and Twitter. It will also include fictional “in-show” websites, and a gossip Tumblr blog dedicated to the show. Story Farm features a mobile app, letting the audience see regular SMS texts and listen to voicemails and emails between characters both during the show and while it is airing. It also features fictional websites such as the local newspaper or gossip sites dedicated entirely to content around the show. Hit The Floor viewers can catch up on all social media and online content related to the show via a dedicated, mobile-optimised website called Locker Room. Somethin’ Else chief creative officer Paul Bennun said Story Farm encapsulates all its experience in transmedia storytelling and TV drama and "expresses it in software". For creative, commercial and communications reasons, the TV industry needs to reach out to audiences during and beyond when shows are on TV, especially via people's personal screens. “Drama series like Hit the Floor are perfect vehicles. They have massive potential for digital lives, bringing alive their characters and fictional story worlds.” Hit the Floor follows the lives and loves of the premier dance team Los Angeles Devil Girls, who support fictional professional basketball team the Los Angeles Devils. Story Farm is a multiplatform storytelling kit that is aimed at creating multiplatform, immersive experiences around soaps or dramas, extending the lives of characters across the web and social media platforms. It can be used by story editors and scriptwriters to incorporate and extend the fictional lives of characters across the web, from the start of the TV show creation process, rather than as bolt-on activity. Somethin’ Else will also offer technical support and software training, and work closely with producers help educate in areas including content planning and production and best practice in multiplatform drama storytelling. It will also provide analysis reports and advise on how to shape future engagement. The backbone of Story Farm was developed while Somethin’ Else was working with Company Pictures on the digital storytelling around series five and six of Channel 4 drama Skins. It claims the activity, which spanned social networks, fictional websites and exclusive in-character video posts quadrupled reach each series from 1.6m to 6.5m viewers.