Is video killing the TV star? VidCon London heralds a YouTube revolution

Guardian Technology 09 Feb 2019 12:59
The crowd at an event at VidCon Melbourne last year. Photograph: James Thomas

For people working in the outwardly bright and cheerful world of children’s television, the past week was not a happy one.

On Thursday, a report on the UK’s television viewing habits confirmed many of their worst fears. Among 4-to-15-year-olds last year, the hours of conventional or “linear” television viewed – that is, television watched at the time it was being broadcast – had fallen by 11% in 12 months. Among 16-to-24s, the decline was 15%: the biggest year-on-year drop ever recorded.

The figures mean that British under-25s are now watching exactly half the amount of conventional broadcast television that they did in 2010 – when, according to the report’s authors, the industry felt the first real impact of streaming services, YouTube, and tablet computers. Broadly speaking, 4-to-15-year-olds are defecting to YouTube, and 16-to-24-year-olds to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

It was two other successful YouTubers, brothers Hank and John Green (John is also the bestselling author of the novel The Fault in Our Stars) who created VidCon in 2010. An annual event in southern California, it combines thronged guest appearances by YouTube celebrities with earnest talks by stars, thinkers and executives from film, TV and technology. It might seem a curious blend of YouTube, Glastonbury and the Edinburgh international television festival, but it sells out its 30,000 tickets weeks before opening, and is widely regarded as the best place to observe the future of online video culture.

Even that strategy – the subject of several talks at VidCon – has come into question, though, because of recent controversies involving social media stars. In December, PewDiePie was caught out publicising a fellow YouTuber who had posted videos with antisemitic content, and Netflix’s documentary Fyre, released last month, discredited social media influencers such as the model Kendall Jenner who helped to publicise the disastrous Fyre festival in 2017.

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YouTubeNetflixPewDiePieUKFelix Kjellberg
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