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Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
The incredibly true story of how YouTube started!
ALSO: The WWE is in trouble. AND: Subtitles vs dubbing.
Okay kids. Gather ‘round. Have you ever heard the story of what inspired the creation of YouTube? No? Me neither. But the story behind it is wild.
And it begins with a nipple. Janet Jackson’s nipple.
About a year after the spectacle, in Silicon Valley, a trio of tech bros from PayPal were getting some dinner and discussing Janet Jackson’s breast. Chad Hurley, 29, Steven Cehn, 28, and Jawed Karim, 25, lamented how tough it was to find any footage of this incident online. In February 2004, there was no such thing as a “viral” video — even a moment as iconic as the Nipple Bounce was still a case of “If you missed it, you missed it.” Everybody was talking, blogging, and AIMing about Janet and Justin — but if you skipped the Super Bowl and didn’t bother to set your TiVo or VCR, you had no chance to witness what all the fuss was about, beyond edited clips on the news.
I don’t generally believe that there is a huge amount of value in anecdotal stories about how ‘my college-aged kid doesn’t even have a TV’ or that ‘all my kid watches is Minecraft videos’. The fact is that our consumption habits and interests change dramatically as we get older. In the pre-premium TV/DVD/streaming era, TV consumption had been generally low for people in their late teens to mid 20s. It was only when people settled down in longterm relationships and started having kids/bought a house that TV consumption levels lifted dramatically.
(Obviously, people in their late teens through to their mid to late 20s tend to go out quite a lot - there’s just less time for TV, but with TV now available on demand, younger people are watching a lot more TV because it can be done on their terms).
I found interesting…
Consultancy company Ebiquity has found that linear TV will see an approximate 21 per cent fall in overall adult commercial impacts for advertisers by 2025.
Among the company’s findings:
For 18-24s, even with a predicted slowdown in the rate of decline, more than half (56 per cent) of today’s audience will have disappeared by 2025.
For the younger 16-24s, 25-34s, and 35-44s, advertising served on YouTube and Facebook was found broadly to be able to match the reach delivered by TV.
It’s not like any serious-minded person has ever claimed that linear TV will see a resurgence with younger people watching it again, but these figures show how heavily the audience has atrophied.
Watchmen TV series creator Damon Lindeloff was supposed to have a movie out last year until an outcry saw it bumped from the release schedule. It is a take on The Dangerous Game with liberals hunting MAGA-types. It’s now set for a March 13 release in the US.
There’s a dumb take in Mother Jones from writer Kevin Drum about audiences preferring dubbed TV/movies to subtitles.
No one likes subtitles. They’re only common in markets where film revenues aren’t high enough for studios to recoup the cost of producing dubbed versions.
But that’s not my pet peeve. My pet peeve is that of course no one likes subtitles. After all, they eliminate one of the key aspects of the acting craft: reading lines. It is faux sophistication of the highest order to pretend that this shouldn’t—or doesn’t—matter.
I think most people like subtitles and understand their value - the TV show/movie is being presented in its most pure form with the language and original actor being presented as intended, with an unobtrusive bridge provided for those that don’t speak the language.
But… that doesn’t mean most people like engaging with subtitled content.
I have been watching foreign movies and shows since my early teens. I barely notice that something is subtitled. After a few seconds, I forget about it and am watching it quite comfortably. But this is me: able-bodied person with a university education who is literate and enjoys consuming texts in a lot of different formats.
Not everyone can come at it from that perspective. Consider those with vision difficulties and those unable to comprehend the written word quick enough to keep up with an on-screen conversation… subtitles are often a barrier to people from being able to engage with foreign language content.
(The real dirty secret few people will confess to is how many watch TV shows and movies while second screening or in places where they’re not fully focused on the screen like the gym - this makes anything but dubs impossible).
Netflix has been a game-changer as far as foreign language TV and film is concerned. Shows are presented in multiple languages - the original and dubs. Also, subtitles are available for those who want/need them.
The privileged debate I saw on Twitter yesterday saw people getting defensive about subtitles. Instead of there even being a debate, it is more important that we argue for greater access to content. That means advocating for both subtitles AND dubs.