OPINION: Interactive TV is the future, says C4’s Big Brother

Warhol’s prediction of 15 minutes of fame for everyone seems entirely feasible now, doesn’t it? And Lord knows how many other social and cultural conclusions we can draw from the success of Big Brother on these and other shores.

Warhol’s prediction of 15 minutes of fame for everyone seems

entirely feasible now, doesn’t it? And Lord knows how many other social

and cultural conclusions we can draw from the success of Big Brother on

these and other shores.



But forget for a second all that Sunday broadsheet stuff about us being

a nation of voyeurs, and consider the idea that we are now getting a

fascinating glimpse of the extremely rosy future of TV.



Compelling TV soaps will long continue to draw millions of viewers, even

if they do not change from their tried and tested format, and football

will continue to be the biggest revenue spinner of all - with or without

the Player Cam. But it is shows like Big Brother and Who Wants to be a

Millionaire? that point the way to post-convergence interactivity.



What is most significant here is not the impressive viewing figures,

although doubtless the programmers are busy hunting for the next - and

more extreme - version of Castaway or Big Brother. (How about a bunch of

nudists, led by Carol Vorderman, sailing a ship around Ibiza, stopping

to collect clues to lead them to a chest filled with gold ingots?)



What is most significant is just how many people have tried to log on to

the Big Brother website, and even to e-mail the ten ridiculously

annoying participants. At some points during the first week, Channel 4

was receiving more than 1,000 e-mails a minute.



If this magazine were interactive, I would conduct a survey to find out

how many people had any success with the downloads like Real Player

needed to watch those fame-hungry folk going about their daily routines.

My guess is not many - many corporate firewalls block such downloads at

work, while the puny modem you’ve got at home isn’t suited to loading

huge files - it took 26 minutes on my PC.



The point is that lots of people have logged on to the site and even if

some of the claimed 85 million page impressions so far are simply people

pressing ’refresh’ and ’back’ as they struggle to navigate their way

round the site, the enthusiasm for interaction is phenomenal. When the

show ran in Holland, the site attracted 52 million separate visits.



Now project yourself into a broadband world where viewing the cameras

whenever and wherever you wanted would be easy and instantaneous, and

where it would be possible to interact in more or less real time with

the show’s subjects.



And what about quiz shows that allow viewers across the nation to play

against one another, or soaps in which the viewers can decide the

outcome as the show unfolds? Big Brother is more than a big earner or a

noughties cultural phenomenon, it is a pointer to a whole new genre of

interactive entertainment.



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