Friday September 6, 2013
"On Monday, September 9 a new chapter is being rumoured to be opened in the history of television– certainly if you believe the pre-programme hype from US broadcaster NBC. The ‘Million Second Quiz’ reads like a cross between ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Trivial Pursuits’. Contestants, already selected because of their general knowledge prowess, will be housed in a giant hour glass on top of a very tall building in New York to pit their wits against each other day and night until a million seconds – just over eleven and a half days – is up. There are prizes at stake of up to $3 million. The Times this week dubbed the programme ‘part reality show and part endurance test’ and despite being aired in the US it has been created by the man behind British programmes such as ‘Wife Swap’, ‘The Secret Millionaire’ and ‘Undercover Boss.’
For those of us in communications the interest is in how the programme attempts to bridge the gap between mainstream TV and the internet. The programme will be streamed live on NBC’s website and ten hours of it will go out on TV. But what makes it in the words of NBC a ‘genre-redefining spectacle’ is that viewers at home can play along live on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and every night someone will potentially be plucked from their living room to join the contestants in the giant glass egg timer.
‘Million Dollar Quiz’ is playing into a number of trends. The opportunity for consumers to interact with TV using social media is being closely watched. During peak time TV in the UK – 6.30pm to 10.00pm – 40% of Tweets are about TV shows as we tell friends and the world what we think of the latest disaster to hit our favourite soap characters, reality TV participants or whatever. The internet hasn’t killed off our interest in TV quite yet and it can’t be long until what happens next to those screen characters are dictated by the Twitter interest they garner.
Secondly, we seem to be attracted to TV super events. The Olympics being an obvious one to mention but don’t forget also Felix Baumgartner’s skydive from the edge of space. Big, time limited events capture our imagination. ‘Million Dollar Quiz’ has a very definite time frame. We also seem to like this type of ‘binge viewing.’ As Kevin Spacey said recently in his James MacTaggart memorial lecture the phenomenon of consumers sitting down and devouring in one go back to back episodes of their favourite TV show tells us that the idea the internet has destroyed attention spans may not be as true as we thought.
Finally, we are increasingly having ‘Martini TV’ i.e. watching it anywhere, anytime, anyhow. 27% of smartphone users and 63% of tablet users now use their device to watch live TV. Manufacturers in the future will be aiming to ensure that we buy inter-linked products from them: TVs, tablets, smartphones and laptops. We can then create our own media eco-system and with good content it could be that TV-type shows will be the glue that binds them all together. So those of us in PR may not yet have lost TV as one of the media we use to communicate our messages. The trick is that someone has to produce stuff we want to watch so as Kevin Spacey also said “It’s content – stupid!”
Interesting thoughts from Chris, are you one of those people Tweeting while you are watching your fav soap or Newsnight?