I’m on a plane as I write this, and still working–see how dedicated I am to the cause? Anyway, there’s a ton of emails in the inbox already today from CES (which is where I’m headed) and this one caught my eye because it’s some big names that are getting into not only, original online web series, but also interactive online original web series. Tom Hanks, and Yahoo! are partnering on a project called Electric City, which sounds like a place I might hang out.

Yahoo!, Playtone and Reliance Entertainment are all involved in the project which is described as a “multi-dimensional animated series” created by Tom Hanks. Set in a futuristic society, “Electric City” is a new 90- minute action-packed sci-fi adventure series, and marks Yahoo!’s first foray into original scripted programming.

“‘Electric City’ is a thought-provoking and engaging series and we are thrilled to be partnering with Playtone and Reliance Entertainment to bring Tom Hanks’ vision to the world on Yahoo! for the first time,” said Ross Levinsohn, EVP Americas, Yahoo!. “‘Electric City’ is so much more than just an online video series – it is an interactive and immersive experience from one of the world’s biggest stars and premier storytellers.”

To me, that sounds like the bright future of online video that I have been dreaming of. It’s one thing to lean back and watch a show, which is the traditional TV model, but with all the interactivity that comes with IPTV and Internet in general, it seems a complete waste to continue on in the single dimensional delivery of content that TV has been. Between computers and the explosion of connected TV and devices there’s no reason that any show, online or not, should be limited to that single facet any longer and I think that this is where things are now going. I envision that, by year end, even standard TV shows will eventually come with special interactive features that wrap around them for those with Google TV or other connected TVs like Panasonic Viera and Samsung Smart TVs.

What is “Electric City”?

The world as we know it has ended and out of the rubble, the Electric City stands as a symbol of peace and security.  Yet under the veneer of order lies a world full of secrets and violence.  Secret police, back-alley dealings, daring chases, and murder all find a home in the “Electric City.” Through the lens of a functioning, yet dystopian metropolis, “Electric City” touches upon relevant global issues and themes including energy consumption, freedom of information, crime and punishment and more.

The story unfolds gradually, layering mystery upon mystery, inviting viewers to interact with the content and each other.  Metaphors and symbols are woven throughout, creating a perfect environment for puzzle-solving and community interaction.  Like good science fiction, “Electric City” raises provocative questions about our own way of life and value systems.  Short-form connecting storylines combined with vivid animation and a compelling score will keep audiences watching, while metaphors and a range of subject lines will keep them guessing—and reflecting.

The “Electric City” Experience on Yahoo!

“Electric City” will be shown as a multi-part series on Yahoo!, and will be supported by a deeply immersive and interactive online experience that enhances the drama, mystery and intrigue of the series.

Yahoo!’s interactive and social features will allow viewers to:

  • Navigate non-linearly and learn more about the world of “Electric City” through a 3-D interactive map
  • Dig deeper into character back-stories and learn about the cast behind the characters’ voices
  • Watch exclusive behind-the-scenes footage
  • Post reactions and commentary directly to Facebook and Twitter
  • Engage members of their social networks in discussions and debates about societal themes, events and characters and/or join the larger “Electric City” community discussion
  • Engage in casual games and other content related to the series

“Electric City” will also live across multiple devices and comes enabled for tablet and connected TV.  The series will be punctuated by special events, such as opportunities to watch exclusive content and to interact with the cast and creators.  As a truly global entertainment experience, the series will also be available in numerous languages, including French and Spanish.

See, that last paragraph confirms my belief that this is the year of video convergence. This show and probably many others like it will be made for all screens simultaneously and could herald a rapid change in the way that video content is packaged. Now it’s not just static bite-sized pieces spoon fed to couch potatoes who are leaning back lazily. It looks to be vibrant, interactive and multi-faceted which will raise engagement levels and probably emotional investment in characters and stories. It will all become a lean forward experience where you can perhaps change the outcome of something by interacting with it during the initial airing or availability. Not only that but by interacting at key moments you might even be able to gain some real world rewards or gain access to extra footage, information, etc.

Viva la revolucion!!