January 29, 2016
Monday 1st February sees the launch of Shield 5. The UK’s first ever Instagram-only drama series. By no means the world’s first Instagram-only TV show, as US audiences have enjoyed several platform-dedicated shows in the past:
Shield 5, created and directed by Anthony Wilcox and spanning 28 episodes, takes us through a British crime drama – a ‘whodunnit’, if you will – based on a security guard suspected of playing a key hand in a diamond heist during his watch. Is he guilty or not?
A popular theme for segmented online drama. Similar to that of cult podcast series Serial. However, this time the episodes amount to 15 second dramas instead of one-hour fact based, real-time documentaries. A full season totalling a whopping 7 whole minutes.
One can’t help feeling like the catch-up segments of seasonal dramas i.e. the ‘since last episode’ or “previously in ‘Lost'” (showing my age) montage of key moments to help the viewer catch up on the narrative, are now the main body of content.
This says two things about how this approach to online drama may have been activated. The first and most obvious is that the average attention span of the Millennial isn’t very long (OK, eye-roll, eureka moment, no kidding, right?) but also the question of whether we have been subjected to an element of ‘filler’ narrative in most other TV dramas? Could Wilcox achieve significant plot detail, character depth and audience engagement in a way that’s so much easier to do in long(er) form drama?
I think yes.
As mobile video consumption is largely dominated by Millennials, and more and more catch-up TV and seasonal shows are consumed piece by piece, on the go, on the commute, or truly ‘on demand’ – watching ever smaller pieces of content when given the chance. It now makes sense to shape video content for micro-format consumption. Especially if this is combined with the high average engagement rate Instagram usually enjoys. Stay tuned for the first episode popping up in your Instagram feed on Monday.