For years, we’ve heard the future of television is in our pockets. But actually getting us to watch TV on our phones has proven a tough nut to crack. Everyone from Hollywood titans to Facebook has dumped millions into producing TV shows in hopes of catching the #content hungry masses. Meanwhile, they’re all losing out to a game show app.
HQ, as an app, is pretty simple. Every weekday at 3pm EST, and every day at 9pm EST, the app streams a live game show with a charismatic host, usually Scott Rogowsky. There are twelve rounds where you get ten seconds to answer increasingly difficult questions. If you win the final round, you get paid. If you’ve got an iPhone or an iPad, and love trivia? Download it. It’s easy to understand, it’s well-executed, the reward of cash and bragging rights is appealing. It’s also incredibly simple, as a concept, which makes it sort of surprising that all of Silicon Valley seems to think this is “the future of interactive television.”
Still, a better question to ask is why did it take this long for all these leading Hollywood producers and Silicon Valley geniuses to just make a game show? Game shows predate even the concept of television, and they’ve been in video games, which is what HQ is, practically speaking, since the first consoles began turning up on TVs. Keep in mind, millions of dollars have been spent on trying to pioneer “interactive television.” And really the only people who’ve managed to do anything close to what both Hollywood and Silicon Valley want to achieve are these guys along with a Norwegian show called ‘Skam’.
Both work because they embrace the medium they’re on in different ways. Skam (Norwegian for “Shame”) drip-feeds each episode every week with a clip, social media post, or other fragment every weekday, before combining to a full episode on Friday. You choose how you watch it. HQ works because it’s active and it asks everyone involved to be active. You’re not just watching Rogowsky do improv bits, you’re competing with others and seeing how far you can go. It works: Skam is the most popular show on Tumblr, beating out even Game of Thrones, and it’s an international sensation, while HQ draws roughly a quarter of a million people per game (last night’s episode brought in 323,000).
It’s unlikely HQ will completely change the face of television. But, by itself, it doesn’t have to. It just has to be fun, which it is. For Silicon Valley and Hollywood, though, the lesson they need to draw from it is that maybe you can’t “fix” how we watch TV, just expand how we do it, make it urgent, and make sure it fits the platform it’s on in the first place.