Over the past two years, artificial intelligence systems and automation technologies have become increasingly popular tools for enhancing sales, marketing and customer services.

Chatbots in particular have gained immense popularity in 2016 and numerous companies and brands have launched their own bots in order to enhance their services and engage with customers.

Although not yet as widely discussed as another quickly evolving technology – virtual reality – chatbots may influence the future of not only brands but also entertainment.

Media companies and broadcasters can benefit from the use of chatbots, and the new experiences they enable, as well. Over the past few months, they have already begun to dip their toes into chatbot waters, illustrating the potential this technology offers and how it presents a new way to extend the content offer and drive fan engagement.

Whether chatbots really evolve into a useful, value-adding technology for the TV industry remains to be seen. But some TV and production companies are already putting them to work. We put together some pioneering chatbot examples, covering possibilities for formats and drama series, which might pave the way for future best practices.

MTV – VMAs Best New Artist vote on Facebook Messenger
Chat about chatbots - Viewers could cast their vote for their favorite new artist via Messenger

MTV is a network that has always been at the forefront of using emerging technologies and platforms to create new fan engagement mechanics.

For the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, MTV partnered with Telescope to let fans vote for their favourite artist in the Best New Artist category with a real-time Facebook Messenger chatbot – an industry first.

To vote, users simply had to click ‘message’ on the MTV Facebook page and send the keyword ‘vote.’ They immediately got an auto-reply and were presented with a carousel showing all the nominees. By clicking on the vote button beneath their artist of choice, users automatically cast their votes.

For years, MTV has been giving fans exciting voting opportunities that at the same time create buzz for their awards show. A chatbot seems like a logical continuation of the network’s initiatives.

MTV – EMA’s interactive bot on Facebook Messenger
Chat about chatbots - The interactive bot for the EMAs gave fans an exclusive way to engage with the live awards show

As another industry first, MTV launched an interactive MTV EMA bot on Facebook Messenger three days before the Europe Music Awards took place in Rotterdam – the first real-time bot experience as part of a live awards show.

The bot let users access all the latest EMA-related news, browse the most common questions (or submit their own), and access live updated show GIFs (provided by GIPHY).

Moreover, fans could interact with the official backstage show, which streamed on Facebook Live. They could take part in polls, submit questions for interviews and upload photos and videos for the chance to be featured in the live stream.

Overall, the chatbot offered an exclusive second-screen experience and provided fans with a new, innovative way to engage with the live show.

Channel 4 – Humans product safety recall
Chat about chatbots - Fictional company Persona Synthetics initiated a product recall to promote the return of C4’s Humans
To promote the second season premiere of its sci-fi artificial intelligence drama Humans, Channel 4 launched an elaborate marketing campaign that issued a product safety recall for malfunctioning Synths, the series’ life-like humanoids.

The campaign ran both offline and online and refers to a plot line in season one, in which several Synths revolt against their human owners. In September last year, the channel ran a print ad stunt in newspapers across the UK.

In the ad, Persona Synthetics, the fictional company behind the Synths, claims that some have experienced technical difficulties and that owners should not reset them and avoid confronting malfunctioning ones. To receive more information, readers were encouraged to head to the Persona Synthetics website.

Chat about chatbots - The chatbot posing as a technical support Synth soon also started malfunctioning

There, users had the opportunity to chat with a technical support Synth. They were being redirected to a Facebook Messenger chatbot posing as a Synth, which interacted with the users and conducted a Q&A about their Synth’s performance before behaving weird and also malfunctioning. Channel 4 claims the chatbot was the first ever AI created for purely entertainment purposes in Europe.

Hulu – Find Your Limits morality test
Chat about chatbots - Hulu’s website evaluates the moral code that users live by

On October 19, 2016, Hulu premiered its psychological thriller Chance, which follows the San Francisco-based forensic neuropsychiatrist Eldon Chance as he gets sucked into a dangerous world of mistaken identity, police corruption and mental illness.

In the series, the line between right and wrong gets very hazy and morality is an obscure territory. In line with the theme of morality, Hulu set up a quiz that evaluates the moral code that users live by. It can be accessed at FindYourLimits.com and asks users thought-provoking questions around ethical dilemmas.

At the end, the test reveals which moral code users follow. For a more in-depth evaluation, they are advised to head to Facebook Messenger, where they get to interact with the psychiatrist.

Chat about chatbots - After the quiz, users can talk to the series’ protagonist on Messenger

The chatbot first provides users with their detailed evaluation. Chance then eventually starts talking about his own personal moral dilemmas and even asks users for advice.

Through the chatbot, which was created in partnership with digital agency POP, users were introduced to the world and characters of the series in a personal, interactive way.

It represents one of the first times that viewers could actually talk to a character from a TV show. In creating the chatbot dialogue, the Hulu social media team worked closely with the Chance writers.

HBO – Discover Westworld chatbot
Chat about chatbots - Westworld host Aeden answered all users’ questions about the virtual theme park

Similar to Channel 4’s Humans, AI technology plays a central role in HBO’s latest hit show Westworld. To promote the premiere, the premium cabler launched a chatbot on the Discover Westworld website.

The chatbot, a host called Aeden, answers users’ questions about the virtual theme park and is a nice addition to the general information about the park users can find on the site.

Throughout the season, Aeden was continuously updated with knowledge as new events unfolded in the series. That way, fans were encouraged to visit the website and chat with Aeden regularly to possibly uncover new information and teasers.

Aeden, which was developed by +rehabstudio, again provided a fun and interactive way to get immersed into the world of a show. The complex bot narrative was penned by the Westworld writers.

Netflix – Chat with Nomi
Chat about chatbots - Sense8 fans could talk to the character Nomi before the series’ Christmas episode

To promote the Christmas special of its drama series Sense8, Netflix launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that allowed fans to interact with one of the main characters, Nomi Marks.

Fans could learn more about the characters and the special episode. The chatbot first asked a few questions about the series’ characters and about senses. After answering the questions, Nomi made a character profile video for the fan and additionally shared some sneak peeks and an exclusive teaser.

Although not as elaborate as the character chatbots from Hulu and HBO, being able to speak to Nomi and receiving sneak peeks and teasers in such an interactive way presents an added value to dedicated fans of the drama.

All these case studies show the versatility of chatbots and give a glimpse of future possibilities. With further technological advances, chatbots soon might become mainstream. The technology can add a new layer of interaction and viewer/user engagement to the broadcasters’ marketing and promotion by functioning as a new second-screen experience, extending a show or drama and allowing for overall deeper engagement.

access all our posts @ C21 Media

For more of these case studies, please access our VAST BUZZ or get more information about our platform here: