Transmedia: How The Bachelor Won Back Viewers’ Hearts

After 17 seasons, The Bachelor, an American reality TV show, is enjoying a sudden unexpected spike in viewership and ratings. Some have pegged the show’s climb on the popularity of its leading man and all-around “nice guy,” Sean, while others point to increased diversity among contestants – a source of staunch criticism from viewers in the past.  (This season was the first to feature multiple women of different ethnic backgrounds.)  But there’s something else to consider.

Transmedia – storytelling across multiple platforms, where each platform makes a significant textural impact to the overall narrative – is sometimes dismissed by media watchers as something that works on  small audiences. Although a grand goal for a larger project, transmedia’s ability to create highly-engaged audiences has been seen as a pipe dream for mainstream brands like The Bachelor.  But after taking a closer look, it seems The Bachelor, one of the most popular shows of the last 10 years, has upped its game in the transmedia department – and to great success.

Although fans have always live-tweeted their thoughts on the show throughout the seasons, this year, select tweets were chosen during the finale and broadcast live on the television screen, allowing fans to make the leap from their couches to center stage. “We have been observing the interaction between our audience and shows via social media outlets for some time, and audiences love the opportunity to interact directly with the programming that they watch,” said Tim Bock, the show’s VP. “This is one of the ways we are bringing live interaction with favorite shows right into their own living room.”

Traditionally, television shows have communicated in one direction, with information flowing from the producer to the audience. Notable transmedia cases such as Dr. Who and The Matrix demonstrate a two-way street, where users (sometimes called produsers) help shape and produce  the experience alongside the original content creators. Take a look at the official Bachelor page for yourself to witness great leaps toward better audience engagement – live social media and chat page, individual contestant interviews, and a “love or hate” section where fans can comment on different events of the show all demonstrate the point.

With the integration of transmedia strategies into primetime television it is clear that one message has finally gotten through to mainstream media producers: The audience wants to engage on its own terms, and they can’t get enough of it.

Photo Credit: Camera Eye Photography