Breaking Bad Story Sync: Incorporating the Second Screen into Transmedia Storytelling

Breaking Bad Story Sync
Breaking Bad Story Sync

Pushing audiences into binge-viewing session since 2008, AMC’s Breaking Bad has sadly graced our screens for the last time. Not only does this mean an end to the nerve-stimulating series, but the loss of an elaborate transmedia campaign.

For those who’ve been living under a rock, Breaking Bad follows the story of Walter White, a high-school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. In a desperate attempt to leave his family financially stable, Walt teams up with ex-student Jesse Pinkman to cook and distribute the world’s purest meth. This controversial storyline has received extensive global praise, winning itself an array of awards including ten Primetime Emmy’s and one Outstanding Drama award.

Audience’s today, however, are looking for an experience that transcends the original program. As audience involvement becomes a greater need, interactive television is very quickly becoming the new black. This new form in which television is consumed is now vital to the survival and thriving of programs today.

The most popular and successful form of interactive television is represented through the transmedia campaign. This new method of storytelling meets audience demands by extending a program’s storyline to a range of alternate media platforms. Each transmedia level is designed to add unique and innovative content that directly enhances the viewer’s experience. Popular transmedia platforms include social media sites, spinoff series, webseries, live events, music channels, radio shows and books. The combination of these platforms provide audiences with a world beyond the original storyline, satisfying their current demands.

Consistent with contemporary industry trends, Breaking Bad has adopted an effective transmedia campaign to further engulf viewers in Walter White’s dangerous and exciting world. This campaign is best known for its spinoff series “Better Call Saul”, talk show “Talking Bad” and comic book extras. Despite these aspects drawing in thousands of obsessive fans, the transmedia platform most deserving of praise is the Breaking Bad Story Sync.

Breaking Bad Story Sync was first introduced to the series at the beginning of season 5 and is essentially an application that allows audience’s to participate in polls, trivia and exclusive content during the viewing of an episode. This app is packed with information that successfully extends the viewers experience and allows audiences to interact directly with the content.

“For viewers looking for a high-quality, curated, second screen experience, Story Sync complements linear viewing with content that offers a richer, deeper engagement specifically designed to supplement the story playing out on the primary screen” – Mac McKean, AMC’s digital media senior vice present.

The Breaking Bad Story Sync is the most groundbreaking aspect of the programs transmedia campaign as it makes use of an opportunity previously unexplored by the television industry: second-screen narrative television.

At present, approximately 84% of television audiences aged 15-24 years incorporate a second screen into their viewing behaviour. This may be a smartphone, tablet or laptop; the point is that there is a whole other screen involved in the majority of program viewing.

Live television programs such as Big Brother and X-Factor have long incorporated the second screen into their consumer’s behaviour by allowing audience’s to vote and comment on the ongoing action. Text messaging and Twitter are the key mediums used to deepen the consumer experience and forge a greater bond between the content producers and viewers.

The incorporation of the second screen into live television events, however, is not enough. Currently, only 38% of television audiences watch live television, leaving a significant gap within the industry. Breaking Bad Story Sync satisfies this industry opportunity, making a groundbreaking move towards the use of the second screen within narrative television.

AMC’s creation of Story Sync represents an evolution in social TV, allowing viewers to contribute directly to the programming in their own time. In addition to exclusive content, polls and trivia, Story Sync also incorporates traditional social media means, allowing users to share their experiences on Facebook, Twitter and other popular sites. The combination of these elements within Story Sync allow for a new interactive transmedia platform to be formed within the television industry.

Breaking Bad Story Sync Layout- polling
Breaking Bad Story Sync Layout- Polling

Although the series of Breaking Bad has come to an end, the innovation of Story Sync is only just beginning. The success of this second screen application has AMC extending the concept to other brands, further evolving the way audiences engage in television series. The Walking Dead Story Sync is already a popular phenomenon, and the recent release of The Killing Story Sync is forecasted to reflect the success of its predecessors.

The adoption of Story Sync into the Breaking Bad brand has filled a gap in the television industry, tapping into a source previously unexplored by narrative television. This innovative concept has evolved social TV and allowed for a new, successful platform of transmedia television to emerge within the industry.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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I study the entertainment industries, drawn mainly to film and TV. I love psychological thrillers and unsettling themes. That being said... give me a good chick flick any day

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  1. Well, we are about to enter a world of two-screen media consumption not allowed in movie or Broadway theaters but encouraged at home in private living room. This is an interesting time with technology proving yet again that it can further enhance our consumption of entertainment.

  2. Whoa I wish I knew about this before watching the finale. Why internet did you fail me 🙁

  3. This is a very interesting article. I will look into story sync shortly when The Walking Dead restarts.

  4. Alexander Stickney

    Innovation at its finest! I miss Breaking Bad already.

  5. Neil Roberts

    So let me get this straight. This only works when I watch the episode live right? I can see it being something to pass the time while the commercials are on but if I’m watching on Netflix or TiVo I don’t want anything to distract me from the excellent drama that is Breaking Bad. If I want to talk to people about it I’ll do it afterwards. This is just the TV industry desperately looking for another way to push advertising – no thanks.
    I hope the movie studios don’t pick it up, can you imagine going to the movies where half the audience has their mobile device switched on?

  6. Tyler McPherson

    Good Article! Walking Dead has been doing all this extra content, with the popular webisodes as well.

  7. Lachlan Vass

    Breaking Bad was better than everything in life put together

  8. Jackson KelPedro

    So did you watch the whole serious and how did you find the progression? What is your stance on the finale, do you think that is what the viewers were hoping for?

  9. Lots of sources and citations needed, especially to support the statistics and percentages used.

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