Article: »We welcome you to your HEROES community. Remember, everything is connected«. A Case Study in Transmedia Storytelling
Second screen strategies are quite common in today’s television industry. Television viewers are used to hashtag suggestions appearing on their screens while watching their shows; networks commonly use second screen options and apps to enhance the audience’s engagement with programming. NBC’s HEROES (2006–2010) was »arguably, the largest and most complex transmedia network […] conceived« (RUPPEL 2012: 224) at the time; the series tested many strategies of media convergence in distributing elements of its fictional world through multiple media platforms. This article focuses on the show’s strategies enticing viewers to engage with its websites, print media extensions, accompanying games, and tie-over webisodes. There have been studies focusing on the series’ branding (cf. GIANNINI 2014) or on the links connecting HEROES’ different elements (cf. RUPPEL 2012: 61), yet there is a tangible lack of attention to what Jason Mittell has termed »forensic fandom« (MITTELL 2015: n.pag.). This article examines the narrative gaps and story arc stops created by the fantasy series. The following discusses how these gaps allowed some viewers to evolve from their assumed passiveness in the general audience to instead become part of the fast growing fan base. Depending on varying levels of involvement, this fandom generated a number of HEROES ›experts‹, creating a tiered hierarchy. Those experts sought to answer questions about mystified symbols, underdeveloped characters, open-ended storylines and potential references provided by the series. This article argues that the NBC strategy ensured the growth of a willing fandom and growing expert base without relying on overt prompts.