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Channel 4 Utopia

C4’s Utopia transmedia series focuses on consumer data issues


By Jessica Davies, News Editor

January 15, 2013 | 3 min read

Channel 4 has put consumer data issues at the heart of the transmedia experience for drama Utopia which debuts tonight.

The broadcaster worked with TH_NK, the creative agency behind Pottermore, as well as production company Kudos and writer Dennis Kelly to evolve the drama series online via ‘The Utopia Inquiry’.

The Inquiry will extend on the core themes explored in the TV series, letting viewers watch trailers and answer questions based on the debates raised in the show, which will include ID theft, the nanny state and what personal data people provide about themselves to access digital platforms.

Visitors to the website are asked a series of questions including: Do you enter a passcode every time you unlock your phone?; do you use wi-fi or bluetooth and do you have location services switched on? It then shows exactly how much time you personally can be tracked by a fictional big-brother-type organisation such as ‘the network’, a shadowy firm introduced in the first episode.

The site uses an algorithm that uses real-world information including numbers of traffic cameras in a particular borough for example, to give as close an idea of how quickly a user could be tracked by this fictional organisation depending on what data they either purposefully or inadvertently share online. The site will be updated with different questions and themes to mirror the progression of the show on TV, with a further two iterations of the site planned.

None of the information given will be stored by the broadcaster.

Channel 4 continues to drive its own data strategy in which it encourages people to register with them in return for more bespoke, additional and exclusive content and advertising experiences. Although Utopia has not been created to tie-in with that ongoing strategy there are certain, inadvertent overlaps, according to the broadcaster's head of multiplatform for drama Hilary Perkins.

"These themes can help raise consumer awareness of what data they should provide. There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to supplying data, in fact there are real benefits when it is used in a good way and provide improved services to people. This is not meant to suggest there is a right or wrong choice, but just to make people aware of those choices," she said.

TH_NK's strategy director Rob Hinchcliffe said the show is centred on questioning how intertwined or "entangled" people are in the digital landscape. "By the fifth episode the drama and website will shift to ask some even more topical and major questions that are not related to consumer data, but we want to keep those a surprise," he said.

The show, revealed last August, marks the broadcaster’s first multiplatform drama commission to air on the main channel, having previously focused on commissioning for E4 – home to successful multiplatform shows Misfits and Skins.

The site has also been mobile-optimised for Android and iOS platforms.

Channel 4 Utopia

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