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‘SKAM Austin:’ Interactive, Multiplatform Storytelling

"SKAM Austin is a compelling argument that the border between 'television series' and 'web series' is a false one."

Based on the Norwegian series SKAM created by Julie Andem for NRK, SKAM Austin on Facebook Watch “follows a group of school friends and airs online, with short clips uploaded daily,” reports The Economist

“Daily episodes running several minutes each are released at the time that they occur within the storyline—a lunchroom scene around noon, for example, or a party scene at 9 at night—and the five or so mini-episodes are collected into a half-hour-ish installment at the end of the week, says Inkoo Kang

“Viewers craving the day-to-day, soap-opera structure don’t have to wait long for the next plot development, while audiences who prefer a more traditional weekly schedule can choose the aggregate presentation option,” Kang continues. “SKAM Austin is a compelling argument that the border between ‘television series’ and ‘web series’ is a false one. 

“The show also uses the web—specifically, Facebook properties—to its advantage. Each major character enjoys his or her own Instagram account, and the show’s official page on Facebook is updated with bonus material, like text exchanges between the characters.” To read the full article, click here.

“Meanwhile, over on Instagram, a whole load of other stuff will be going on. If you follow all the show’s characters, you’ll see a huge amount of behind-the-scenes content that, like the show’s scenes, will drop in ‘real time,'” Larry Bartleet says. “But even as it uses Instagram as a platform, it’s likely to show viewers the discrepancy between the veneer they see on the social media platform and the personal tragedies they see within the show itself… The permanently ‘on’ nature of the show is likely to create a ravenous fanbase online, because its two-pronged approach is so immersive.” To read the full article, click here.

“When I first heard about SKAM, it felt like I was seeing the future of storytelling,” explains Ricky Van Veen, Facebook’s head of creative strategy.

“From the first moment I heard about it I thought about Facebook as my partner,” adds Simon Fuller of production company XIX Entertainment. “Facebook Watch, with its inherently social components and passionate community of fans that surround it, is the absolute perfect partner for SKAM.”

SKAM Austin was destined to find a home on Facebook,” continues Kang. “No other platform could offer as much to the series: a high-quality video platform, text- and image-based posts, a built-in forum to discuss the show, and, perhaps most importantly for a daily series, notifications for new episodes.”

“There is a clear creative opportunity in this shift away from the network model,” reports D.T. Max. “What if all these seemingly disparate activities and digital platforms could be marshaled into a single narrative—a Gesamtkunstwerk for the Internet age? Would it make the old-fashioned television episode seem as antique as black-and-white TV did once color sets appeared? The time seems right for an experiment like SKAM.

“In an era of short attention spans, it can seem atavistic to watch a half-hour series, let alone binge-watch it,” Max continues. “‘Engagement’ is the key metric for the online industry—advertisers want to pay for how often you like, post, and click, rather than for how long you passively watch—and SKAM, with its cliffhangers and its multiple entry points, is designed to inspire passionate engagement. 

“Fidji Simo, the head of Facebook Watch, told me, ‘SKAM was just the perfect fit for the kind of content we wanted to do more of.’ Indeed, Facebook, which has been losing young users to YouTube and Snapchat, needs such programming to attract them. And what better way to advertise Facebook than by creating a show in which all the characters use Facebook?” To read the full article, click here.

Read more: SKAM Austin Aims to Bring Nordic Angst to Suburban America

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