Bring up the topics of new media and creative ways to reach an audience, and the married executive producing-writing-directing team of Ian Sander and Kim Moses display the energy and passion of several people.
When describing the “Total Engagement Experience” for “Ghost Whisperer,” they explain how forward-thinking ways have led to a new model to attract viewers. Facing tremendous odds — research indicated that 82% of freshman series on Friday night do not make it to their sophomore season — and armed with a show centering on a supernatural mythology with a popular young star (Jennifer Love Hewitt), they came up with a game plan.
Just airing a show weekly on a network wasn’t enough, so they created online seances, webisodes, an e-store, tweets on Twitter, Facebook fan pages, Spirit Guide, comic-books and other ways to spread the word.
“Television is the most important component, but the audience is expecting to be entertained,” Sander says. “It drives eyeballs from one platform to the other, from the web to television and in reverse. We call it the infinity loop.”
One example of this success are the webisodes, which allow for a different type of storytelling. While the producers believe television is generally most effective telling close-ended tales, the online crowd thirsts for cliffhangers because they can catch up by viewing archived material at their convenience. The infinity loop created by the webisodes has been a financial winner for all involved. For example, General Motors initially sponsored the online content, and then bought ad time on the telecasts. GM also decided to offer up some cars for product placement.
“It was launched from the passion of the fans — what they wanted to see,” Moses says. “We found out from the fans they wanted to know what happened on the other side, stories from the ghosts’ points of view. It’s direct input from the audience immediately, which you couldn’t do a few years ago, which you need to pay attention to. You’d be foolish not to.”
Unlike many producers, Sander and Moses create all of the content for each platform inhouse.
“It all works because Ian and I are storytellers,” Moses says. “Every component — interactive, DVD extras, (e-store) Mel’s closet — is about storytelling, and storytelling goes all the way back to campfires.”
CBS entertainment topper Nina Tassler says that one reason Sander and Moses are so successful is because each component works within the context of the show.
“They have always been able to deconstruct the show and pull it apart to have specific pieces focus on segments of the audience and reach those members of the audience,” Tassler explains. “At the end of the day, the cross-appeal of the show works because it’s marketed to specific audiences. Everything is additive.”