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