YTV’s In Real Life spans transmedia

The online extension of the youth-focused reality show, which allows fans to create their own narrative alongside the show, is attracting an enthusiastic following.
In Real Life

YTV is engaging its fans in a whole new way this fall with the transmedia extension of its reality show property, In Real Life.

Airing on Monday nights on YTV, In Real Life follows 18 young competitors as they compete against one another in a series of real-life “jobs” for the chance to win a grand cash prizes and a trip to the Caribbean. In its first season last year, In Real Life was primarily an on-air property, with a small-scale website to accompany it.

This year, however, the show has been launched with an extensive digital transmedia execution that has already drawn 30,000 unique visitors to the website since it launched in tandem with the show Oct. 4, 2010.

The interactive website, created by Toronto-based Secret Location, features a standalone game in which players earn points for each level they successfully navigate. Anyone can play the game as a “visitor” to the site, but kids can also sign in to the site and choose to “partner” with one of the on-air competitors. The points they earn during the game are then also put toward their favorite player. The players who have earned the most points via their online partners are then brought back (if they have been eliminated from the show) for a special final webisode. Additionally, kids can build their own customized levels on the site for others to play, comment on and “like.”

An important distinction of the online In Real Life world is that it evolves and changes alongside the show instead of being a static destination, James Milward, executive producer and creator, Secret Location, observes.

“We didn’t just dump it and hope that it worked,” he explains. “We’re doing episodic releases of game elements and content that we’re promoting through custom on-air bumpers and on the YTV site. So every week, kids get tied back into the game through the show itself and the bumpers and lower-thirds and kids get further tied into the show by playing the game and recognizing that it’s on that night. So we’re constantly pushing and pulling between the show and the site.”

In the month since In Real Life’s second season began, the site has already proven a smashing success, Milward says. Visitors to the site are spending an average of eight minutes per visit during the week, and up to 25 minutes on the weekends. The level-building tool has been especially popular, Milward says. Secret Location estimated the tool would generate about 250 to 500 levels during the course of the show, but 250 were built the night after the first episode aired, with around 1,500 built since. And with about 100 points earned per level, players are already in the six-digit realm.

Milward credits the appeal of the game to its transmedia nature, in which viewers contribute to the broadcast content, and even create their own alongside it.

“We’re not just trying to replicate content, we’re creating a whole new narrative,” he says. “It’s something that the kids at home are in control of and as a result of that, they feel a sense of ownership with it. And they are more enfranchised to play and build because they have meaning behind it and it’s because they feel like they’re doing it for their friend, who is the on-air challenger.”

From Media in Canada.