Is reality TV dead?
How Social media became the new home of reality TV and made you the star.
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Early in September the Kardashian’s took to social media to announce the ending of their hit reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, just months after Sarah Frier published No Filter, the book that detailed the family’s impact on beauty, culture and Instagram. Coincidentally, about a week later Paris Hilton — the heiress and star of iconic reality show The Simple Life released her documentary This is Paris exclusively on Youtube. Soon after both Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton featured in a nostalgic series of posts for a Skims social media campaign, one of which was an 8 minute IGTV vlog.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Over the last year it has become more and more evident that social media is the new home of reality content. Shows like MTV cribs have been replaced with apartment tours, Sweet 16's are now birthday vlogs, TikTok houses are the new Big brother and viral algorithms are producing overnight sensations in the new creator economy. You no longer need to watch a reality TV show to know the ins-and-outs of celebrity gossip because social media platforms upload content instantly. I mean, imagine waiting for a new season of KUWTK to air to find out what happened with Jordyn and Tristian, when Jada published a tell-all Red Table Talk with Jordyn on facebook just days later (which amassed 34.5million views btw!)
The boundaries between celebrities and influencers are becoming increasingly blurred — ditching reality TV shows for social media is a tactic that makes their content more authentic and relatable to their fans. Saweetie uses social media platforms to let her fans get a glimpse of her lifestyle. The Icy Life reality series on Youtube features clips of her family, friends and BTS footage, while her TikTok content shows off the more humorous side of her. Kylie Jenner has tapped into a Similar strategy — cooking on Youtube with her daughter Stormi and posting pranks on TikTok, if you remember her iconic pregnancy/birth announcement was also done via Youtube/Instagram.
In the new era of reality content, you are the star of the show! If 2020 showed us one thing, it was that celebrities are rather tone deaf and in actual fact out of touch with our every-day realities. During the pandemic some quarantine flexed in their luxurious homes while others embarked on “humble” escapes to private islands. The anti-celebrity sentiment is growing and people are seeking influence in their peers, who create wholesome, educational, entertaining and personal content that people can relate to.
Platforms like TikTok have given a whole new meaning to what it means to be the main character, @Bomanizer is a TikTok creator who makes reality TV parodies, where he literally is the main character! Brands such as make-up retailer ELF have caught on to this TV2SM migration, their campaign saw the creation of a reality TV series on TikTok. Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty was also among the brands who tapped into this trend, opening a TikTok house for content creators in March.
How do you know?
Social media platforms have been making various changes to accomodate the TV2SM migration, Instagram extended the limit on live videos to 4 hours and now allows users to upload their live content to IGTV — which they also have plans to monetise. TikTok also started rolling out longer 3 minute videos. In order to further the reach of creators on the platform Instagram introduced Reels and Snapchat launched Spotlight, both features have a similar viral algorithm inspired by TikTok. Over on Youtube connected TV viewership increased this year, indicating that more people are watching Youtube content on the bigger screen (longer videos too!).
What’s this called?
Its the creator economy! People are making big bucks from creating content, whether they’ve been cultivating an audience on youtube for years or went viral overnight during the pandemic. TikTok star Charli D’Amelio reached 100 million followers on the platform and had secured a deal with Dunkin Donuts that sent cold brew sales soaring. Jalaiah Harmon finally got her flowers after her dance routine renegade became the most viral dance the internet has seen, Addison Rae befriended the Kardashians and Atlanta became the home of black creator houses. The creators themselves are raking it in, some even seeking wealth managers to help them invest their fortune.
What to expect…
Social media is simultaneously a testing ground for content that will potentially live on the big screen, as well as where reality TV trends are recreated and revived. Whats my opinion? I predict these shows will be short-lived and not span for decades as did traditional reality TV shows. To be successful I also think they would need to live on SVOD platforms consisting of shorter episodes and shorter series -a bit like Bling Empire. We will wait and see what The Hype house, which is the first of a few upcoming TikTok-turned-reality-tv-shows has in store for us.
Is reality TV dead? What do you think?