December 5, 2006
Name That DAYS Baby: A Low-Investment Stab at Interactivity

Here's an interesting call for interactivity in the soap opera world. NBC soap Days of Our Lives is asking for fans to choose from a list of final names for the baby of one of the main characters, which is due in January.

Hope will be having a little girl that may be named Cassidy or Darcy or Rori or Bridget or Clara, depending on what the fans choose. Voting is open from Dec. 4 to Dec. 17, at which time the contest will be narrowed down to the top three vote-getting names, and fans can choose again from those top three names from Dec. 18 to Dec. 31.

According to Anna Johns with TV Squad, the site is set up so that each fan can vote as many times as they would like.

This seems like a limited stab at interactivity. Just as with the soaps fantasy game I wrote about over the weekend, the DAYS initiative does provide the chance for fans to have some degree of interaction with the show and, in this case, a decision that will have an impact on the show for years to come--the name of Hope Brady's child--will be made by the collective intelligence of fans. A little trivial, perhaps, but it is an interesting way to get fans involved. It's interactive, without requiring a substantial time commitment, and it allows a little bit of conversation afterward with other voting fans. It doesn't tap into the great power soaps have of provoking discussion and debate in quite the same way as even simply viewing the main product does, but it's a clever way to get more folks interested in the show's Web site.

And, according to the voting site, the folks who conceived of the fan vote are hoping to parlay that into greater online involvement with the show, urging viewers who are voting to "visit the Days of our Lives website to follow the story of Bo and Hope Brady and then join the message boards to discuss your vote!"

The whole process has gotten some fans involved in mini-debates about name choices, such as this exchange from Andre & Demetria's Days page on MySpace.

According to a press release from the show (reprinted at Soapdom), DAYS considers this "another history making interactive first from NBC Daytime. They point to a precedent being a storyline on DAYS in recent years in which fans voted on who the father of a baby would be, and the writers decided to go with the wishes of the fans in that particular storyline. The show touts this as being a chance for fans "to be a part of TV history."

With soap operas considering a lot of innovative moves for its future, NBC Daytime has tried several approaches in recent months, especially after rumors last November that the shows may someday be looking at alternate forms of distribution if the nature of daytime television were to shift away from the ensemble dramas.

DAYS' counterpart on NBC, Passions, has been particularly innovative in new media spaces, including its streaming on NBC's Web site, its distribution through iTunes, its transmedia storytelling project with an online tabloid that exists within the narrative of the show, and interesting genre mixes on the show itself with episodes in animation and in Bollywood style.