The House of Mouse is breathing new life into interactivity by going live.
Disney Channel will air its live comedy special Just Roll With It: You Decide LIVE! today. The Halloween-themed telecast will allow viewers across the US to watch Just Roll With It and join the studio audience in determining the show’s plot twists in real time. Nationwide live voting is being executed in partnership with DisneyNOW, which will see poll elements pop up through the app or website during the live show.
“The live special is about awareness and making sure we’re in tune with where audiences want to be,” says Kory Lunsford, VP of current series for Disney Channel. “Our audience consumes content in many different ways and this is just another way to engage.”
Just Roll With It is a hybrid series that blends a scripted show with improvisational comedy. The 21 x half-hour multi-camera series is filmed in front of a live studio audience and targets kids ages six to 11. While it starts off like any sitcom, things quickly go off-script when the audience votes on scene options the cast isn’t aware of ahead of time.
Once the audience members vote for the scene or storyline they want to see, the set is rejigged and the cast is brought back out to pick up the story where they left off, now having to react to anything from a wrecking ball to a jetpack. The live special, however, will allow viewers at home to have as much say as the studio audience.
Lunsford says focus group testing with studio audience members revealed significant engagement around the show’s voting element. Viewers at home were just as engaged during the voting process, and in fact reported feeling similar levels of excitement if the option they wanted to see was chosen.
“We recognized the level of engagement from the studio audience during those votes in the show’s first season, so we decided we needed to share it with all of the viewers at home,” he says. “It was the obvious next step to go live, to give that to the entire audience. Interactivity is baked into the DNA of the show and we’d be remiss if we didn’t tap into that full potential.”
Executing live voting for an entire country requires significantly more coordination than for a studio audience, Lunsford says, but he hopes more live events are on the horizon. Minor customizations were made to the technology to prepare for the special after data from the interactive trivia series Disney QUIZney was used to estimate peak traffic for the event. Additionally, Disney’s engineering teams will monitor traffic during the event and scale up services as needed.
Just Roll With It: You Decide LIVE! will be directed by Sandra Restrepo (Jimmy Kimmel Live!, 2 Dope Queens).
This live experience comes as Disney continues to focus on interactivity. Earlier this year, Disney Channel bowed the third season of Disney QUIZney exclusively on the DisneyNOW app. Games, polls and trivia tied to content launched on the app last year.