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Becoming Human: Inside a successful cross-platform commission

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Becoming Human is a cross platform, interactive drama by the creators of BBC Three’s Being Human. Told across eight episodes online and on red button, with a daily interactive whodunit for users to join in, Becoming Human is BBC Three's most successful  cross-platform commission with over 1.5 million views to date.

Being Human's online community is incredibly active, and has built up since the pilot first transmitted on BBC Three’s website. So loved by audiences who discovered it online, (3,000 fans petitioned the channel to make it into a series) and with a third series on the channel, the BBC wanted to treat the audience with something beyond the standard episodic experience of Being Human on TV..

At the heart of Becoming Human are eight video episodes, (between 5 and 13 mins) where the story (a murder mystery) unfolds. But the narrative expands beyond the video episodes with daily clues posted on the Becoming Human blog. Clues took the form of fictional text and image based press cuttings, CCTV footage, mobile phone clips posted by the Becoming Human characters. This ‘multiform’ approach to story telling gave the audience a unique experience of the Being Human story world. To drive broad appeal, the experience worked on two levels – audiences could just watch the episodes or they could dive deeper and read and contribute to the mystery unfolding via the blog.

Created by Toby Whithouse (Being Human) and written by Brian Dooley (Being Human, The Smoking Room), Jamie Mathieson (Being Human) and John Jackson (Being Human), Becoming Human is set in a fictional college and picks up Adam's story. Adam is a teenage vampire (Craig Roberts; Young Dracula) who leaves Being Human in episode two to make a fresh start. In Becoming Human he is at college trying to get himself back on the straight and narrow. It's here he meets the beautiful, cool Christa (Leila Mimmack; Married, Single, Other) - who just happens to be a werewolf. They strike up a friendship with Matt (Josh Brown; Grange Hill), and the three of them team up to solve Matt's murder.

The episodes were broadcast on red button and online weekly starting from Episode Two of Being Human. All Becoming Human content (video, text, photographs, audio) was created by a fully integrated TV and online production team, shot on location and updated daily. Fans enthusiastically took up the challenge to find out who killed Matt with a number of blog posts receiving between 2000 and 10 000 comments.

Following the success of the online and red button episodes, BBC Three aired the experience as a 50 minute drama after the last episode of Being Human. This allowed the reveal of the killer at the end of Becoming Human to happen simultaneously on TV and online - a first for the BBC.

How did the production company and the BBC develop the Becoming Human concept?

Becoming Human was conceived by Touchpaper TV and Zodiak Active, commissioned by BBC Vision, Drama Multiplatform. Touchpaper TV and Zodiak Active producers worked closely together from the start to develop a storyline that worked seamlessly across platforms. By using the same development and production team as Being Human, Becoming Human was able to maintain the same level of quality that has made the main show such a success.

How was the audience appetite for Being Human explored and expanded, and how has Becoming Human been received?

Becoming Human succeeded on many levels. Viewers went from watching Being Human on TV to pressing the red button or going online to experience Becoming Human and they regularly returned online to comment and join in on the interactive mystery. Viewers really engaged with the drama and posted on social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook etc..) their desire to see the full experience play out on TV. The BBC responded to this positive audience response by running the combined episodes as a one off special on TV.

Becoming Human performance

  • Becoming Human got an AI of 84
  • Over 1.5 million watched it on red button and online with red button getting up to 340k viewers per episode.
  • When the 8 episodes were put together as one 50 minute special for BBC Three, over 500,000 people watched it. 65% of those hadn't seen it on red button or online.
  • The Becoming Human blog became more popular than the main Being Human blog with several posts receiving between 2000 and 10 000 as the story unfolded.

Credits

Rob Pursey and Phil Trethowan are the Executive Producers for Touchpaper Television (part of Zodiak Media Group), Toby Whithouse is creator and Executive Producer, Eleanor Moran is Executive Producer for the BBC and Hannah Thomas is producing. The online content and interactivity was produced and managed by Barry Pilling and Garret Keogh at Zodiak Active. The series was shot on location in Wales.

The series was commissioned by Sarah Clay, BBC Multiplatform Drama Commissioner.

You can also watch an interview with the writer and executive producer of Being Human, Toby Whithouse, on the BBC Academy website.


 

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