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will.i.am on The Voice

The Celebrity TV Guide

BY Matt Williams

If you believe the press, you’d think that no one is watching The Voice. Every Sunday and Monday morning the newspapers are full of stories attacking the BBC show’s ratings, as it loses viewers to Britain’s Got Talent, or most recently the Champions League final.

But if you have been one of the few to stumble upon the talent show (think X Factor but with swivel-chairs) you may have noticed Will.I.Am – Black Eyed Peas member and wearer of colourful glasses – a little distracted during filming.

While he should be listening attentively to young hopefuls belting out yet another Snow Patrol cover, Will.I.Am tends instead to be looking down at his phone, trying to send a sneaky Tweet or two.

Whether this act has really annoyed BBC bosses or not tends to depend on which newspaper you read. But why should it be a problem? After all, Will.I.Am has more than 3 million followers, many of whom hang on his every word. They follow him because he’s talented, because he’s controversial, but more importantly because he’s influential.

That influence is why the BBC have shelled out an alleged £600,000 to have the singer on their show. And if ratings are falling as much as some claim, then they’d be stupid if they didn’t turn to Will.I.Am and his thriving Twitter account for some help.

Ernesto Schmitt, the founder of ‘TV sidekick’ Zeebox, picked up on this point at our Connected TV event last week.

He suggested that in the future celebrities will play an even greater part in the general public’s viewing behaviour – helping determine what it is their fans actually watch.

As an example, Schmitt cited an off-the-cuff Tweet from actor, writer and all-round-Twitter-legend Stephen Fry, who last year told his followers: “Thank heavens for darts. Otherwise it’d be all that horrible dancing, x-factoring and celebing.”

A seemingly innocuous 140 characters you may think, but Schmitt explained that, as with any celebrity tweet, it was retweeted hundreds of times, and actually caused a great many people to turn over to the darts on the other side.

This is where Connected TV really comes into its own. With second screen technology and apps like Zeebox allowing viewers to constantly monitor the TV viewing habits of their friends, family and most-loved and trusted celebrities, it’s easier than ever for those stars to determine exactly what it is that people watch.

And as Google’s Tom Moore also underlined at our event last week: “Connected TV is taking engagement to a whole new level. You’re now going to be guided to new programmes. No longer will you ever watch something just because it’s on.”

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