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TV Shows Fuelling the Rise of Immersive Experiences

Photo: Netflix, Stranger Things: The Experience

I start most Tuesday mornings, not with a typical marketing checklist, but instead by asking my manager what he thought of the latest episode of the hit TV show ‘The Last of Us.’ And it got me thinking, how do these insanely popular shows create such an immense fan following? Take Netflix’s show Wednesday, for example; this dominated my social feeds. Just three weeks after its release, the young adult series racked up a staggering billion hours’ worth of views, surpassing benchmarks led by Squid Game and Stranger Things 4. The character became a pop culture phenomenon, inspiring fashion and makeup styles, TikTokers, and even Lady Gaga. Proving that consumers want to live and breathe these TV shows, escalating the use of IP-based experiences!

More and more companies like Netflix and Disney are leveraging their intellectual property to create in-person experiences. While the concept of location and IP-based experiences isn’t necessarily new. With more and more entertainment companies and brands wanting to connect with fans in unique ways, experiences have become the pinnacle for increasing fan engagement, not to mention increasing revenue streams.

Take Disney Animation’s immersive experience, for instance, an innovative celebration that takes guests inside the greatest films of Walt Disney Animation Studios. It showcases 100 years of iconic movies, from Snow White to Encanto, and the creators behind them. Equipped with 60 projectors, bubble machines, and interactive animated floors, it has been such a hit that they are looking to expand to even more locations, including Las Vegas, Boston, Minneapolis, Detroit, Denver, Nashville, and more.

Experience Disney Animation like never before!

Then, there was the 2-day pop-up premiere of The Mandalorian in London’s Piccadilly Circus. A whole host of experiential activities were integrated into ‘The Forge’ experience recreating the blacksmith area on Planet Mandalore where Beskar is forged into Mandalorian armour and sabers. Fans were given ‘the chance to get a taste of the “Star Wars” galaxy,’ with a meet and greet from the main stars of the show, Pedro Pascal and Jon Favreau. Along with live music in a cantina bar and ‘droid-powered photo ops’’ using our latest technology, Glamdroid®, creating an insta-friendly reel wielding a Darksaber.

But it’s not just Disney getting in on the action. Sky held an activation at the UK’s most popular convention, Comic Con, to promote the release of their new Sky Original film, The Amazing Maurice. The stand recreated the home of Maurice and used our Human Hologram experience to give fans an interactive moment with the main characters. The activation harnessed the power of engagement through an emotional level and left a lasting impression, which is the ultimate goal of creating IP-based experiences.

Meanwhile, Netflix and Fever have partnered to create a global Stranger Things Live Experience. Where fans enjoy two separate elements of the show: a one-hour immersive experience set in the Hawkins Lab (including a trip to the Upside-Down), featuring a brand-new storyline. The experience involves VR and special effects as well as being brought to life by actors. Followed by a trip to The Mix Tape – as its name might suggest, its an 80’s themed area that recreates several scenes from the TV show, including Scoops Ahoy-themed ice cream parlour and a video game arcade where you can try and beat MadMax’s score. There’s even a Rink-O-Mania too! So far, the experience has been available in New York, San Francisco, London, and Atlanta, but it’s continuing to travel the world, giving fans the chance to nominate their cities, highlighting the growth of these concepts in the immersive experience industry as a whole.

Friends. Don’t. Lie. Friends have fun (and eat pizza from Surfer Boy’s truck)

Universal Parks and Resorts are also planning to branch out, building a year-round horror experience that brings characters to life from Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man, marking the first time that Universal has created a permanent horror experience beyond its theme parks.

Now back to the topic that inspired this article. The Last of Us. The show has a dedicated fan engagement strategy using in-person experiences, including a pre-premiere experiential screening series. A key stop along the series’ experiential journey was a series of six New York City screenings at Angelika Film Center, where VIP influencers and fans entered an immersive, in-world experience resembling an outpost for the show’s revolutionary militia group, the Fireflies. It was staged like a set from the series, including several characters, vintage props, and mushroom-themed food and beverage linked to the show’s zombie-like creatures infected by a mutated Cordyceps fungus. Additional experiential touchpoints included a photo experience featuring a dead ‘infected’ attached to a faux wall, built from the same 3D scans used in the series, in order to create the most shocking and social-worthy content. The pre-marketing strategy led to the show’s debut on Jan. 15, becoming the network’s second most-viewed in a decade.

These IP-driven experiences are just the beginning of what promises to be a whole new world of immersive entertainment, with the potential for ground breaking, interactive experiences that blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

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