The top trends changing how we watch TV now
Sam Pepper is a star, watched by millions, thanks to YouTube. Now he's coming here.
You probably haven't heard of Sam Pepper. In fact, your first assumption may be that 'Sam Pepper' is an obscure soft drink or new pizza chain.
That Pepper has become a theatre-filling star while 99.999pc of humanity is utterly unaware of his existence speaks to the huge changes currently taking place in the entertainment industry, television especially.
If you are one of the millions who regularly watch the Los Angeles-based comedian and rapper's YouTube channel, then you may be hyperventilating at the prospect of experiencing his cheeky humour in the flesh when he performs at Dublin's Vicar Street tonight (the show features "lots of confetti" he promises).
A decade ago, Pepper would have probably spent most of his 20s making tea as an intern in the hope of a lucky break in kids' TV or a some basement reality show. Now, all he has to do is start a YouTube channel and, presto, he's headlining Vicar Street.
Insta-stardom of this sort is merely one of the arriving trends in home entertainment. Here are are few of the others chugging down the track.
1: Twitter As Social Soundtrack.
Tweeting while watching has become one of the hot trends in broadcasting. It makes the experience more social and also lets you show to the world how witty you are. Number-wise,the scale of the phenomenon is awe-invoking: some 19 million Tweets were sent during the Oscars last year, Ellen DeGeneres' selfie was the most Tweeted image of all time. Naturally, television is keen to 'grow' this experience – within the industry, lots of extremely smart people are trying to think of ways of harnessing Twitter activity and bring viewer interaction to new levels. Whoever gets there first may have the hit of the decade on their hands.
2: Online television is no longer a joke.
Just five years ago, the idea of an Oscar-winning actor starring in a TV series that was only available on the internet would have been deemed a not-very-funny joke. Now, streaming service Netflix is regarded as a serious rival to conventional television, the Kevin Spacey-starring House of Cards one of the sensations of the year. Netflix is not alone either – Amazon came to the rescue of the Dublin-shot Ripper Street, picking up the show after the BBC dropped it. And the online retailer bankrolled Washington DC political drama Alpha House, starring heavyweight John Goodman.
3: Blame It On The Kids.
How much TV do you watch on your iPad? Some? A little? None at all? For your kids, it's very different. Among under fives, tablet , not TV, is the dominant medium. Some 84pc of children surveyed in Britain have access to an iPad or one of its rivals. For them, television is something you carry under your arm – not a hulking grey box in the corner of the room. As they grow up and become consumers,and eventually producers of television, the impact of this shift in perspective will surely be profound.
4: Viewers are more powerful than ever.
Wonder why networks such as Sky are sinking so much cash into original content such as Penny Dreadful (shot in Dublin and Wicklow)? It's because they understand that nowadays our loyalty is to shows, not networks. Do you know who produced Mad Men? Breaking Bad? Okay, most of us have probably heard of HBO. The point is that it wouldn't matter if we hadn't – the days when audiences watched BBC or ITV or Channel 4 because it was 'their' kind of channel are over. The exception, of course, has always been RTE, which is there for the stuff we couldn't get anywhere else.
5: YouTube has invented a different Kind of Television.
There's niche and then there is YouTube. With 100 hours of video uploaded every minute, the service caters to every imaginable interest. Plus, it has birthed a new kind of micro-star, the 'VLogger'. These are attention seekers who have notched up audiences of millions, like the previously mentioned Sam Pepper.
6: There Will Be More TV 'Events'.
With more of us watching online, traditional broadcasters have been thinking of ways to strike back. The solution in America is 'event TV'. A live broadcast of The Sound of Music on NBC last year brought in nearly 20 million viewers. People tuned in because they understood the live nature of the endeavour, and the potential for something to go horribly amiss, meant catching up later just wouldn't be the same.
7: Anthologies are hot.
The critical and ratings success of HBO's True Detective has demonstrated the old-school mini-series, where a story is told over a tight eight or 10 episode arc, hasn't gone away. In fact, there has been an upsurge in anthology shows lately – other examples include American Horror Story and the new Fargo reboot. (screening on Channel 4). Expect many more to follow.
8: Movie stars on TV will be the norm.
Slumming movie stars are no strangers to television. Lately, though, the wattage has turned brighter – nobody scoffed when it was mooted Brad Pitt might appear on season two of True Detective while the presence of Billy Bob Thornton on Fargo has not raised an eye-brow. It's easy to imagine a day when A-listers do movies for the pay-cheque, and television for the credibility.