As some lucky fall shows are picked up for entire seasons and others fade into the annals of television history, networks and cable channels have rolled out social games and game-like experiences to increase engagement and tune-ins.
For new shows, it's a matter of making viewers familiar with characters and themes. For more established ones, it's about strengthening the loyalty of existing viewers. Here's a rundown of what some networks are doing in the game arena.
Showtime Promotes "Dexter" Game On-Air
Showtime built a game, Dexter Slice of Life, for its serial killer drama. The game lets players guide the character through a series of clues and challenges that mirror the season 6 story arc. Players can also hunt their friends.
Since it launched, more than 50,000 players have tried out the game, according to CBS-owned Showtime, which is promoting it on Facebook and with on-air promos. New game episodes appear the day after each TV broadcast throughout the season. The game was developed by Ecko|Code.
"Dexter Slice of Life provides a tremendous opportunity for a Showtime property to find a new audience, connect with our current dedicated fan base and extend the brand into bold new mediums," said Laura Palmer, SVP of distributor marketing at Showtime.
The season's first episode on October 2 had 2.2 million viewers, which was Dexter's largest premiere to date, a rep said.
ABC's Twitter Experiment
To promote its 1960s era drama "Pan Am," ABC launched Flight Around the World, an interactive map with a plane that flies more than 1,000 feet every time a viewer issues a tweet with the hashtag #PanAm.
The Twitter-powered virtual flight began in New York on September 12, and is now nearly halfway to Hong Kong - after stops in London and Paris. The cities mirror locations in the show in a bid to get people buzzing about it.
"We would much rather have a very simple and fun experience that is social by nature...than produce an elaborate digital game that only one person can play at a time by themselves," said Ben Blatt, director of digital strategy at ABC Entertainment.
ABC is promoting the initiative through digital ads as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Blatt says Pan Am's Facebook community is its largest for any new show this season, with 232,000 fans.
Syfy Adds Gaming Rewards to Ghost Franchise
Syfy has teamed up with game mechanics company Bunchball to create a fan reward site, Team Ghost, for its "Ghost Hunters" show. It launched three weeks ago and will be available indefinitely, according Bunchball founder Rajat Paharia.
Team Ghost provides fans with a virtual ghost hunt and awards points for completing challenges and finding ghosts on the site.
Paharia says the point is to make fans feel connected while Syfy gains a more engaged user base. While Ghost Hunters has a large online following - 1.9 million Facebook fans and 47,000 Twitter followers - a Syfy rep wasn't available for comment about the number of Team Ghost participants.
In addition to Syfy, Bunchball has also worked with NBCUniversal to create a microsite, Dunder Mifflin Infinity, for NBC's The Office and the Create a Housewife app for Bravo's Real Housewives of Atlanta. Syfy is a division of NBCUniversal.
CBS Games Extend Show Themes
CBS has digital games for two of its new series, the comedy "2 Broke Girls" and crime drama "Unforgettable."
In the 2 Broke Girls game, available on Facebook and iTunes, players take on the role of a waitress and must take orders and serve food in an increasingly busy diner. Unforgettable has two memory challenge games, in keeping with the show's storyline about a former police detective with a flawless memory. Spot the Difference and Memory Master both live on CBS.com.
CBS Interactive created the Unforgettable games; the 2 Broke Girls game was created by CBS, media agency OMD, and game developer GameSalad. The games were launched in September and will be accessible for two or three months. They have been promoted on CBS's Facebook pages and each of the series' Twitter accounts. CBS says users' results are sharable, so friends can link to and play the games themselves, too.
CBS did not disclose how many people are playing the games. Anne O'Grady, EVP of CBS Marketing, wrote in an email, "They've been building awareness for the themes and characters of these two new series along the way."
According to CBS, 2 Broke Girls averaged 15.5 million viewers and Unforgettable averaged 13.26 million viewers in the first two weeks. CBS recently picked up 2 Broke Girls for a full season.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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