HBO Go’s “enhanced episodes” of Game of Thrones provide an interactive slide show that corresponds to the re-airing of episodes. The experience essentially replicates the DVD commentary and behind-the-scenes offerings of the season box set (but the app gives you access to them on the go!). These “enhanced” episodes are a good way to learn the characters' names and understand the complicated politics of Westeros (the setting of the show), but I would venture to guess that the fan dedicated enough to re-watch episodes of Game of Thrones on HBO Go probably already knows the difference between a Lannister and a Stark. So then how does this “connected viewing” enhance the show?
The technology company Miso offers an alternative to HBO Go’s digital offering with its fan produced “sideshows.” This “connected viewing” service is similar to HBO Go, offering content that corresponds to the events in the episode. Miso chose to crowdsource their content by reaching out to Game of Thrones fan communities to add the facts, opinion polls, and quotes that correspond to the episode. If you are a fan of the Game of Thrones books and the television show, these fan created “sideshows” provide a way to evaluate the adaptation of the book. If the corresponding Facebook “likes” and Twitter “re-tweets” are any indication, the audience for these Miso sideshows is small. This is not surprising--the service is new, and the current offerings are not that interesting to anyone besides the biggest fans of Game of Thrones.
Miso, unlike HBO Go’s “enhanced episodes,” demonstrates some of the promise of “connected viewing” as it puts the creative process in the hands of the viewers. One could imagine a comedy troupe creating sideshows in the fashion of Mystery Science Theater 3000 or a group of designers and artists reflecting on the style in episodes of Mad Men. The potential variety in the Miso sideshows could unleash the creativity of the audience and make the “connected viewing” experience an entertaining proposition, a way to breath new life into old content and expose people to perspectives that they might not otherwise encounter. But will people care enough about the “connected viewing” experience on their second screen to donate their time and creativity? Perhaps “enhanced episodes” could become a popular way to watch reruns if fans were compensated for creating ancillary content for their favorite media franchises.