New Medical Drama “Saving Hope” Targets Social Media Engagement Beyond Primetime Viewing

This just might be the future of television. With a heavy presence on the four major social media sites (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest), sneak preview trailers online, and a web series featuring original weekly content, CTV’s new medical drama series Saving Hope is taking the term “series premiere” to unprecedented levels.

Transmedia is the buzzword du jour, as storytelling adapts to the digital age. With audience interaction in everything from politics to pop-music videos at an all time high— thanks to the internet and social media—media entities are looking for new ways to tell stories that engage the audience far more than just entertain them.

If you’re my generation and are fused face-first to your laptop/tablet/mobile screen, then the idea of a TV show expanding beyond its natural boundaries is more evolutionary than revolutionary. For some time now, CTV and other networks have been making online streaming of show episodes available after they are aired in traditional broadcast format. But with Saving Hope, digital media comes to the forefront as an innovative experiment in multiplatform media unfolds.

For production of the series set in the fictional Hope-Zion Hospital in Toronto, CTV had an embedded Digital Production Unit, which worked concurrently with the show’s production team to handle the development of all digital media elements related to the show. These include a music lounge featuring all the songs used in a given episode, a features section covering episode recaps, exclusive online content and cast interviews, and live chats on the CTV App, featuring series stars Erica Durance, Michael Shanks, and Daniel Gillies.

Cadence had a chance to talk to Saving Hope’s Kristopher Turner, who plays psychiatrist Gavin Murphy. Turner has been seen on other top Canadian shows, including Rookie Blue, Being Ericaand The Listener.He also played a lead for four seasons of Instant Star and recently wrapped up playing the lead on the independent zombie comedy A Little Bit Zombie.  In addition to playing Murphy on the show, Turner also has his own online “Ask Gavin” advice spot as a web series extra to the show. He talks about how the digital component allows for greater audience engagement with the characters beyond the time slot.

“It’s exciting to be a part of a new experiment, in a way,” Turner says of his “Ask Gavin” web series.  “For me it’s exciting because it’s another way to explore the character, another sort of satellite world that circles around the main world of the Hope-Zion Hospital. So for me it was flattering to be asked to be a part of that because there’s a huge talented cast involved in this, and there’s not enough time to explore everybody’s story in the main story.”

When asked whether his real life mirrors his advice-doling character on Saving Hope, Turner laughs and says, “You know, I think there is a part of that, for sure. I consider myself a very open and honest person and very non-judgmental. That’s how I like to live my life, and maybe it’s the Libra in me, being able to see both sides of something. I like to be able to be open for anybody to come and be able to speak with me.”

With the rise of social media sites, especially Twitter, audience feedback has become a real-time experience, and with Saving Hope’s creators, it seems like this is one wave they’re looking to catch. With each of the main cast members present on Twitter, (handles below) viewers can get closer than ever before to personalities that may soon become dear to their hearts. There is a Facebook page and a dedicated, show-specific Twitter feed as well. And taking it a step further, there is even a character twitter feed with insights and gossip from within Hope-Zion Hospital, a move that looks set to engage fans in a way that seems inspired by the fans themselves.

Since fan-fiction on the Internet and characters with fan-made social media handles have been around for a while (case in point: Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort is enjoying a vibrant second life in the ether of the Twitterverse, and Sherlock, BBC’s modern take on a classic favourite has spawned John Watson and Sherlock Holmes Twitter personas online), it seems to be a logical next step to incorporate that ahead of time into the production of the series as a whole, making it an entirely immersive experience that goes beyond the 9 p.m. time slot.

For Turner, he says he can’t wait to see audience reaction to this new method of doing TV.

“On paper this show has all the right ingredients,” he says. “I honestly think this is one of the best collections of Canadian talent, right from the top—the directors, producers, to writers, to actors. So, the network has been behind it all the way, too—obviously—the posters are everywhere. They’re promoting it and people know about it, so all the stops have been pulled. There are no excuses for why the show wouldn’t succeed, you know? We’ve done everything!”

With over 800 “likes” on the show’s Facebook page, even before the series premiere, Turner may be right about this.

With Saving Hope paving the way, the TV conversation may no longer be water-cooler talk about what happened last night and speculation about what might happen next week. It seems the next big thing will be lunchbreak tweeting with your favourite character on the TV show you’ve got streaming from your tablet, while refreshing your Facebook page to see what new content has been posted since you last checked.

Catch the series premiere of Saving Hope Thursday June 7 on CTV at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and you can join the interactive fun on Twitter:

@SavingHopeTV<https://twitter.com/#!/SavingHopeTV>

@SavingHopeZ<https://twitter.com/#!/SavingHopeZ>

@CTV_Television<https://twitter.com/#!/CTV_Television>

@MichaelShanks<https://twitter.com/#!/MichaelShanks>

@danieljgillies<https://twitter.com/#!/danieljgillies>

@kristopherturn<https://twitter.com/#!/kristopherturn>

@HuseM<https://twitter.com/#!/HuseM>

@juliataylorross<https://twitter.com/#!/juliataylorross>

…And Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest:

https://www.facebook.com/SavingHopeTV

https://www.facebook.com/ctv

Tumblr:

http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/saving+hope

Pinterest:

http://pinterest.com/CTVTelevision/saving-hope/

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