TV is Boring
There is no doubt that TV programming has taken a leap forward in the last few years fuelled by the exit of writer talent from the Hollywood studios following the writers strikes and big content budgets by companies like Netflix. This has led to block buster series like Game of Thrones to a never ending schedule of new series launches. TV programming has never been better (for simplicity I am lumping satellite, digital and streaming services into one group).
However I am always amazed at how younger viewers respond, that even in this world of endless choice they still gravitate to YouTube and with ubiquitous smart TV see little difference between these formats, except that recently they been referring to TV as boring.
We have the usual bewildering array and mix of Sky satellite stations and I watch with interest at how the sub 10 years olds navigate this world of entertainment and the lethally additive cocktail that gaming and YouTube has become.
Up to recently my children’s online consumption was limited to satellite programme supplemented with very low YouTube usage (due to poor broadband speeds). YouTube was generally a place to go to uncover Slime making recipes and designs for making Loombands, which were endlessly replayed while they replicated the designs. They devoured the usual TV selection of programmes, saving entire episodes for viewing at their own pace and time. The concept of appointment TV programming was bewildering to them instead expecting instant access. Recently they have bored with this selection and switched to gaming, largely influenced initially by friends choices.
Now that we have entering the world of reasonable speeds I have been amazed at their preferences and influences and how the worlds or gaming and YouTube intersect.
First came phone based app games that their friends were playing from Subway Surf, followed by the edgier Granny. These are generally single player games and highly addictive but as these rested on my phone and accounts they were restricted to games I approved.
Next came the rapid move to online gaming through the multi player Roblox. This platform contains over 15 million games created by users which they access through a home PC and smart phones. The range of games, from running a pizza shop, surviving disasters to adopting a family, allows them to play each other simultaneously in a relatively safety with sharing of ages, curse words blocked out by the # symbol. They navigate this world with ease flipping between games, finding school friends and are as happy with a small screen and larger PC format. They routinely change names and customise avatars and educated themselves about etiquette and of course the buying of Robux currency– something we have avoided. This vast selection of games (freemium – you pay to unlock features), simple set up, the highly social nature and immense freedom contrasts against the offline world where their activities are more regulated and restricted. In line with the growth of gaming, their viewing of more traditional TV programming has dropped dramatically.
Initially YouTube consumption (when it moved from How to Videos for crafts interest) was centred on similar aged YouTuber like Ruby Rube which moved from ‘3am challenges’ to highly edited and increasingly polished videos covering her everyday experiences. As this channel became more sophisticated it rapidly attracted the interests of commercial brands judging from the free products she receives and access granted to venues.
As the games interest grew and without ever being guided to platforms such as Twitch they turned to YouTube – initially to find ‘cheats’ and ‘glitches’ for app based games. However now their TV consumption has been replaced by watching their favourite Roblox influencers play Roblox games. Denis is one of them who sports over 7.5 million subscribers and is estimated to be worth over $6.5 million.
Clare Siobhan is another who narrates games experiences especially SIMs and boasts a healthy 1.5 million subscribers.
LaurenzSide delivers a narration over games and also the latest TIK TOK memes to general chatting about stuff.
Also heavy on the gaming side but covering everything from riddles, life hacks to cutting things in half is is Azzyland Gloom. You need to have a mix of content to amass 11 million subscribers.
Yammy posts Let’s Plays and Gaming Commentaries.
Each is slightly different but none are what you would call a review. They feel deeply personal – mainly due to the single person in a bedroom type studio. They are entertaining and most publish daily. Sometimes they narrate their experience of a game, other times they call out what they see in the game almost like an animated story. They routinely rack up 500,000 views in 24 hours. The freshness of it is attractive to kids especially knowing something has just been released. They are generally low fidelity with some post production edits but generally it’s a male or female with headphone and split screen. This reminds me of the compelling nature of audio and podcasts, which rely on engaging narrative and are cheap to produce. However the numbers of viewers, subscribers and engagement they receive must be a serious concern to the TV industry who are burdened with costly production costs. Location, nationality and gender of the YouTubers does not seem to issue or particular interest. There is a fluidity and proximity of them that makes them very compelling. This entertainment quality is further strengthened by the fact that they can play the games themselves after watching their YouTubers and essentially live in their world. The closest TV gets to this is kids running out to play football after watching a match on the screen. Frequently they virtually walk amongst these YouTubers in the games.
Now that my kids have worked out how to view YouTube on the widescreen it has all but replaced their satellite content viewing – something they occasionally now do for a break.
Inevitably their interests will change to more lifestyle, fashion and other arenas but YouTube is likely to remain central with the role of YouTube influencers growing. The push is already on to participate with their own channels and likely to grow as they work out how to connect with their influencers. These changes are likely to be even more exaggerated when they enter the social media and messaging world. Calls for Snapchat accounts can be ignored for now.
This is a serious challenges for existing TV. Gloss and production values would seem to matter more to them than younger viewers who migrate in extremely large numbers to the land of low fidelity and apparently authentic influencers.
Most of the observations above are well documented trends but watching it in the first person is fascinating and offers a unique opportunity to investigate the why’s and motivations behind these behaviours.
When they enter the social media world I will most likely be told to check out their status update if I want to know what’s going on with them.