A Star is Born: Social Media drives Reality TV


Unscripted TV shows or what we know as reality TV came into prominence about two decades ago. Think American Idol and Survivor. Closer home, we have our own Roadies and Bigg Boss which have taken Indian television by storm.

Truth be told, social media is a lot like reality television.

Thanks to video-centric and live streaming apps such as Facebook Live, Periscope, and Vine videos, there are zillions of people in the social media universe both creating and consuming content that is very similar to what one gets to see on reality TV. The audience have turned into producers and now get to decide on: what will we watch, how will we watch and on what device will we watch.

Take the case of YouTube stardom, a new phenomenon in India.

According to Convergence Catalyst, a tech research firm, the active internet user base in India nearly trebled from 120 million in 2012 to 343 million in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of smartphones rose from 42 million to 240 million even as prices of the cheapest smartphones dipped from Rs 4,950 to Rs 2,970.

In India, every month some 20,000 active YouTube channels upload 3.8 lakh videos, get 9.48 billion views and attract 1.1 crore new subscribers. The average Indian viewer spent 475 minutes watching 79 videos a month in 2015. This surge is reshaping content and viewership and creating an alternate universe of stars and fans.

With the rise in this kind of unscripted entertainment being available on various social platforms, the line between reality TV and social media is getting hazier. Little wonder that reality TV stars and home-grown social media celebs have an impressive fan following that can topple established movie stars or musicians.

Remember Gautam Gulati, the much hated contestant on Season 8 of Bigg Boss? Even after being ostracized within the house by all the contestants, he was one of the most fascinating characters in the world of social media. He was was trending on Twitter and Facebook every day when the series was on. He set many records on Twitter and one of the popular hashtags,  #GautamGulatiFever trended for more than 20 hours breaking all the previous records of past season contestants, #GautamGulatiRules and #WeAreWithGautam became the no. 1 trending topic in India and also trended worldwide. Overnight he had turned into a brand thanks to his loyal following on social media. The audience was connecting strongly with him and that connect changed his fortunes. He won the show!

Another contestant, Prince Narula became a youth icon and won the show in the next year. Again, social media with its love for unscripted entertainment had come to his rescue.
As we continue to produce and share, the difference between traditional entertainment and personal social networking will become less pronounced. There will be less focus on form and audiences will be geared towards whether the content is authentic and entertaining.

With social media driving reality TV, we will see newer talent using social media to connect with fans and build a fan following. In future, anyone with an internet connection will have the power to create and become a star. These virtual world stars will cut across class and geographies to create their own fan base and rewrite the rules of entertainment.

Our blog at Digiqom closely tracks news and developments in the world of social media. Keep reading and write in to us with your comments!

Picture Courtesy: youtootech


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