How to recognise a Total TV phenomenon? Case Love Island Suomi
How does a show become a Total TV phenomenon? The Love Island Finland's Executive Producer Eevamaria Vassinen explains the show’s background.
In spring 2018 a mega phenomenon from the world landed on my desk: The Love Island show format had already been a success in several countries. ‘Interesting’, my professional self thought. On a personal level, I thought that the show would fit other people’s tastes better. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In my hands I had a future Total TV phenomenon and this is how it was built.
1. Most watched the show on a streaming service
Love Island Suomi got an unintentionally explosive start when, due to technical problems, the show’s first episode was delayed for a day. We got maximum attention and the wildest conspiracy theories speculated whether the delay was a genius marketing ploy.
It was not, and in the end the show earned its limelight and faithful followers on its own merits. The show was broadcast on Sub, six nights a week for eight weeks, beginning from the end of September.
Tens of thousands of Finns, especially young women, waited in their homes in front of their screens for the love reality to start at 10 p.m. Even more people watched the show on mtv or C More streaming services and Love Island Suomi rose into its own category among MTV’s most consumed content.
2. Show generates an innumerable amount of hashtags
#teamJaura #Panku #kielimoukku #parvekkeella #teamvanne
Love Island Suomi quickly generated an innumerable amount of different hashtags. A phenomenon can be thought of as total when it cuts through the whole nation’s consciousness, either at great speed or by growing gradually.
The show activated people to copiously discuss with each other on different platforms. Jodel, the social media platform used by the younger target audience, hosted a Love Island group that had several thousand members and where people were fans of even the advertisements shown during commercial breaks.
3. Phone application supports real-timeness
The show’s idea is, at its core, fairly simple: find yourself a partner or you will be sent home. Love Island Suomi differs from other reality shows by offering only a limited amount of alcohol to the participants. At first this did not sit well with the audience, but in the end it was seen as a ‘refreshing change’.
The phone application that enabled the viewers to participate in the writing of the show also supported the real-timeness of the show. Those who downloaded the application got to vote on who would leave or get to go to the villa, and also which of the contestants would spend the night together in a romantic suite.
The application added more fuel to the fire when the show was on its daily break by continuously offering new content to consume and topics that people continued to discuss on different social media channels. One of the central features of total TV phenomenon is that the show gives the audience something to talk about until the next episode. During the season, the application was downloaded a record 155,000 times.
4. Reaching the pioneers’ target audience: young women
‘Against all expectations, Love Island did not flop but instead became a sort of a generational experience,’ wrote Sonia El Kamel, a journalist at Helsingin Sanomat.
In the UK, the fifth season of the show is being broadcast on summer 2019. There the show has become a cultural phenomenon that has achieved the unusual and managed to lure even the younger audience to watch traditional television. The generational experience focuses particularly on the television’s most elusive target audience: young women.
After the first Finnish season of the show, I dare to claim that these young women are a pioneering group that others will follow when the phenomenon spreads wider, like many other TV shows that grew into phenomena have proven.
This year, this pioneering group did actually already include several more mature fans, such as my dear mother and her boyfriend who called me from Saariselkä on the night of the final, distressed that the TV channel Sub had gone dark in the area. But thanks to the mtv VOD service, that also served thousands of others, they were able to watch the final episode live – and to vote, of course.
5. Unique combination attracts viewers and advertisers
‘It’s all about love and relationships’
... said the supervising producer of the production company to me, when we went through the special characteristics of the production. And yes, the show is the market place of modern love, where on the line are not only the islanders’ social media accounts but also genuine feelings, and the most valuable prize, in addition to money, is real love and friendships.
The show is a unique combination of a talk show – yes, you read that right, at its core the show was a series of the participants’ conversations in different places – , young, beautiful and bold participants, an application that lures the viewer to be the scriptwriter, and strong social media platforms. Using these elements, we succeeded in creating a phenomenon that was attractive to both viewers and advertisers.
6. Love Island Suomi reshaped its genre
Thanks to the moderate consumption of alcohol and relationship conversations that became the focal point of the show, we were able to present a new version of a Finnish man who’s new, modern, willing to talk about his feelings and to put himself on the line.
In many other shows of this genre the popularity is based on second hand embarrassment and feeling a little superior. Unlike what the press expected, we were able to prove that a love reality show can also be genuinely full of love and good feelings, a true show of love.
I, too, had to eat my hat and confess to being the same kind of consumer as all the others who ritually watched the show. No secondhand embarrassment, feeling of superiority or laughing at others is needed. The opportunity for love, the identifying with all kinds of emotions and the fomo effect of the fast-paced show are enough.