Hollyoaks fans will be able to get an exclusive look at what their favourite on-screen characters are texting to each other under plans being developed by Mersey Television, writes Sam Espensen.
The Liverpool broadcaster's R&D subsidiary company, Conker Digital, said the initiative will give viewers access to extra programme content via texts sent to their phones. The service is due to launch next year but a date has yet to be revealed.
This follows Nokia's press conference in Nice two weeks ago when the mobile giant urged producers to gear up to create content for phones sooner rather than later.
Head of Conker Digital Lee Hardman called the Nokia announcement a sea change and said that Hollyoaks'loyal audience gives it the chance to explore additional revenue opportunities using new media applications.
"Hollyoaks.com has almost 160,000 regular users, so we have a close dialogue with viewers. For an indie company it's especially good because it supports Hollyoaks, but has a life of its own," Hardman said.
Mersey TV has been working with mobile services provider Opera Telecom for the past two years to place mobile services into the brand-building strategy. The partnership led to the creation of The Mobile Club, where fans of the show can buy graphics and ring tones. Hardman said viewers have already begun to request clips to mobiles. "What is particularly interesting is that they are more interested in receiving clips to mobiles than they are to PCs."
Hardman said Hollyoaks scriptwriters and programme developers are "just getting to the point where they think as much about what mobiles can do for the show as any other avenue for communicating with viewers. But nothing is forced on the audience".
He offered an example of text interaction whereby three characters could be seen texting in the show. If viewers wish, they can then get texts sent to their phone which would be extra plot information from the characters. He is keen to stress that the show "will not be spoilt for viewers if they don't get them."
Hardman could not confirm when next year this service will be on offer, but he was confident it will be successful. "Once you have secured 150,000 viewers returning month on month to the website that becomes a market and Mersey has a long relationship with all kinds of technology."