Academics have offered a wide range of definitions of interactivity (Kiousis 2002). I prefer to follow the lead of Cover (2006, p.140) in defining interactivity as occurring when
Content is affected, resequenced, altered, customized or renarrated in the interactive process of audiencehood.
So an interactive show is defined as one in which the audience directly affects what happens on the TV screen by sending information that is collected by the production team. Many shows fit that description – but how can we differentiate between them in a useful way?
I propose a four-part model based on two axes. To illustrate the differences, I have included shows as examples – The X Factor, Million Pound Drop, Football Focus and Smart Interactive – Live Roulette.
In the diagram below, interactivity in TV shows is mapped according to the frequency of input and the impact of viewer contributions:
Interactivity in The X Factor occurs with low frequency but with high impact: once a week, during the two or more hours the show is on-air, the public decides who should progress.
Football Focus has low-frequency, low-impact interactivity: occasionally viewers’ tweets are read out, and only some of them inform the studio discussion.
The Million Pound Drop offers high-frequency, low-impact interactivity: viewers can give their answers to every question faced by the contestants; those answers may be used to create editorial content, but do not affect the course of the show.
High-frequency, high-impact shows tend to appear on smaller channels but, like Smart Live – Interactive Roulette, they focus entirely on the actions of viewers who are playing along at home.
This is an adapted excerpt from an article I co-authored with Dr. Kris Erickson, now of Glasgow University.
Cover, R., 2006. Audience inter/active: Interactive media, narrative control and reconceiving audience history. New Media & Society, 8(1), 139-158.
Kiousis, S., 2002. Interactivity: a concept explication. New Media & Society, 4(3), 355-383.