Summer is getting hotter – and we’re not talking about the weather! The new series of Love Island starts on Monday 6th June! With this programme sure to take over the country and all social media over the next few months, what does the future of reality television look like? If we’re following the technical and internet trends, it’s likely that soon, reality television will both take place and be consumed within the metaverse.
Love Island has been a long-standing summer fixture since starting in 2015, with viewing figures often being some of the highest of the year. However, with viewing habits changing away from event television and more towards on demand television, the ratings have started to fall. The 2021 finale figures were down compared to the 2019 finale, down from 3.4 million to 2.8 million, with the launch episode also achieving a 4 year low on ratings, although this was clashing with the Euro 2020 football. Consolidated viewing figures showed that the average episode viewing had fallen from 6 million in 2019 to 3 million in 2021. The 2021 series also generated the most Ofcom complaints, totalling at 33,000.
How is Love Island adapting to tech generations?
However, Love Island was the most watched programme for the 16-34 demographic and series 7 (2021) was the most viewed series ever on ITV Hub, showing that on demand viewing is growing in popularity. The desire for television to fit into the viewer’s schedule, as opposed to the alternative, has been accelerated through streaming apps such as Netflix and Disney Plus. In the future, it’s clear reality television needs to continue to be made on demand, with less of a preference on event television finales.
The team behind Love Island are aware of their success, and have started to use the brand for good. For their 2022 series, they have partnered with eBay as their main sponsor, a change from fast fashion brand I Saw It First which was the sponsor for the previous 3 years. This shift to promoting preloved clothes shows the forward thinking behind the team, as they know the gen-z audience they have now showing a preference towards preloved and second hand clothing.
The Island beyond TV
Love Island has also started to expand beyond just their TV showing. Viewers can take part in key show decisions on an app, choosing the contestants they want to vote off or save, along with being able to purchase merchandise and outfits from the show. This shows a desire for viewers to be across multiple platforms, and the need for extra content and involvement with the show. This is where the metaverse could come into play, as viewers seek interaction with the show in deeper ways than before.
Along with the app, ITV have appealed to a more interactive gaming audience with the launch of their successful Love Island game. The game has been so successful that they have released numerous new versions, so fans can complete new volumes and chapters. These games have been played by over 20 million people worldwide, showing a demand for reality tv-based gaming content. Additionally, sales of virtual clothes on these games has exceeded $10 million as fans can fully customise their avatars – showing the potential for NFTs in the future.
With this clear increasing online presence and noticeable shift to other platforms, how can the metaverse fit into this?
TV channels like ITV are realising that they need to shift where their audience is, as opposed to making the audience come to them on a linear TV channel. In 2021, ITV partnered with Metavision, a company specialising in bringing entertainment and brands into the metaverse area. They want to invest in advertising in spaces where younger people spend more of their time, and this will soon be the metaverse.
ITV have had previous metaverse success. In 2021, they launched a special version of their primetime gameshow, The Void, exclusively on Fortnite, in what they stated was the first of many programme expansions into the metaverse. This allowed Fortnite players to access a Void universe and play real games from the show. Acting as the first foray into the metaverse, ITV announced plans that going forward they will be bringing more leading shows to this platform, so that younger, hybrid viewers can engage.
Other reality shows are also expanding into the metaverse, or becoming metaverse-only.
In November 2021, ITV launched a metaverse version of The Voice, showing exactly how reality tv could work in the future. The partnership with Avakin Live and Tiktok allowed users to perform as an act, a coach or the audience in a replica of The Voice’s format. This is just one way reality tv can take a metaverse approach – through partnering with a metaverse platform and creating a similar format for users to engage with.
Virtual production studio, Dark Slope, recently partnered with Canadian TV production company, Insight Productions, to develop a new type of experiential reality tv that blends metaverse technology with the reality tv genre. The ‘Hyperreality Initiative’ will utilise the Unreal 5 game engine to deliver high quality visuals along with haptic feedback technology and hand, face and object tracking to fully immerse contestants.
Mixed Reality TV first came about in 2017, with Norwegian game, Lost in Time, combining interactive mixed reality content with customised green screen to transport contestants to different games and settings. From playing in the Jurassic era to the medieval times, contestants had different tasks to do each time. Viewers at home could also get involved by playing mobile versions of the games from their own sofas. By playing along at the same time, they could compete against each other to win real cash prizes, alongside the real contestants on the tv.
So what’s the future of reality tv and the metaverse?
Creating a space for fans to engage with each other is becoming an increasingly popular way of expanding beyond television. Love Island has partnered with Reddit to create an official fan community. Reddit saw a 74,000 strong Love Island community in 2021, with 140% increase in engagement and 52% subscriber growth as the season progressed.
In the future, this could be a metaverse reality. Fans could watch the show together, discuss the key moments and even interact with some of the contestants themselves.
There’s also the possibility of Love Island and similar reality shows having their own metaverse version. Contestants can meet each other and interact, along with playing the reality game within the metaverse. Viewers could also watch this take place and interact with the contestants as it happens. NFT’s could also play into this. You could purchase the clothes seen on Love Island for your own avatar, or become the proud owner of a Strictly Come Dancing glitterball trophy after winning the metaverse version. It will be really interesting to see how the Hyperreality Initiative plays out, as this is likely to set the scene for the future of reality television as we know it.
One thing’s for sure, television is changing and channels need to quickly adapt to the metaverse idea before they get left behind.