Cell C, in partnership with Blink Pictures, has made broadcast history. Hangman, which debuted on South African television screens in early October, is a different beast from your average unscripted reality show. It’s a new interactive show that sets a benchmark in the genre with its ground-breaking viewer immersion model.
Commissioned by Cell C, Hangman is South Africa’s first digitally engaged platform.
“Hangman brings together traditional TV viewing with the growing demand for mobile content. Not only does Hangman support innovation and allow individuals to take their business forward, but it also provides viewers the ability to watch when and how they want, be it live on television or later via the mobile app,” says Cell C Chief Executive of Content, Surie Ramasary.
“This is the marriage of unscripted television, with gaming with real time content streaming,” says Hangman executive producer, Odette Schwegler. “It’s a terrifying marriage; it could easily end up in divorce and we had to figure out how to do it.”
In the past month, a team of television producers, crew, editors, app developers and social media strategists did just that.
Cameras start rolling early on a Sunday morning capturing the reality as contestants are pushed to the limits with gruelling tasks. While almost simultaneously, the public is invited to participate in the show with real-time advice and support on the Cell C Reality app and they can support their favourite team by buying virtual shares in the Exchange.
“What this means is a production that never sleeps. From Sunday to Wednesday between 7am and 10pm, cameras roll daily producing over 160 hours of footage and generating seven terabytes of data,” says Schwegler. All of which is edited and packaged for broadcast that same week into a slick 45-minute programme ready for Sunday broadcast, along with a host of additional news and behind the scenes material aimed at keeping viewers glued to their phone and their TV sets.
Centred around a search for South Africa’s gutsiest innovator, Hangman embarked on a nationwide search for contestants. Entries were almost exclusively done via the Cell C Reality app, which is currently an online curated portal for the show.
“But it’s also so much more than just a platform. It’s a place for viewers to engage with the contestants and with virtual shares on the stock exchange,” says Schwegler.
And, if viewers want to get in on the action and make their way in front of cameras, that’s completely possible by using the App where you can offer help and support via a video message to the contestants. “Forget phone-a-friend, this makes use of technology to immerse viewers and make them feel part of the action — that’s where the real stardust is,” says co-producer Bernadette Maguire.
“This allows for a whole new level of viewer engagement never before seen on shows in this genre,” says creative Billy White.
The other major differentiator is that the show’s producers are adamant that sustainable businesses are created; they want the businesses to have longevity beyond the show. To make sure that happens, business guru Pavlo Phitidis is on board in a guiding and mentoring role with the contestants, not only during the show but after the show too.
“This is a reality show that not only provides content and interactivity, but also brings new innovators and entrepreneurs into the South African market and showcases their conceptual innovations. What we are really excited about is that we can bring entertainment on demand on a mobile application to binge-watch on previous episodes,” says Ramasary.