Transmedia storytelling as an opportunity for re-inventing Russian federal television
Russian television has a common problem: the most active media consumers are abandoning television to binge-watch foreign TV shows on online streaming services or social networks with video content. Transmedia storytelling (TS) could re-invent old-fashioned media by using multiple media platforms, content expansion and audience engagement to add active media consumers to a decreasing television audience.
But will TS really help Russian TV re-invent itself and its audience or will it simply disguise the gap between the different interests of TV audiences and producers? This chapter first gives an overview of recent developments in Russian television, its audience and transmedia storytelling. It then studies the transmedia project “Sasha Sokolov. The Last Russian Writer”, produced by Russia’s leading broadcaster Channel One Russia, using methodology based on Gambarato’s (2013) transmedia analytical model.
The documentary’s subject is a little-known, cult author; it is produced as a detective docudrama and promoted by transmedia strategies, which contributed to its remarkable success, even in an unpopular category. However, the closed character of Russian television and the producers’ choice to limit the participatory opportunities of TS diminished the possibly greater success of the program. This case demonstrates the problems of freedom of expression on Russian TV, which is limited to “safe” topics (such as literature) and allows alternative (and not always argumentative) opinions only from the members of an elite group. Contemporary media technologies and strategies are used to expand the number of viewers, but not to initiate public discussion.