Why Does "America's Got Talent" Love Magic?
Here's what made the show change its mind about magicians...
Magic does incredibly well on TV and social media for several genetic reasons.
“Got Talent” loves magic. But they didn’t always. Back in the day, Simon Cowell was known to absolutely hate magic. That was until Got Talent began posting clips on the popular video site, YouTube—you may have heard of it.
Magic travels well.
“Travel” is a television term that means the content can be watched anywhere in the world, and often in any language. A good example of a television show that travels well is “You’ve Been Framed” or “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
Content that travels well is also very easy to syndicate. Syndication is when a show is sold to multiple countries around the world. It’s a little like how McDonalds restaurants pop up around the world with slightly different logos and adjusted menus to fit the taste of the local market.
A successful format is usually bought worldwide, and then also remade from scratch by America. Some Great examples of Syndicated shows are Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, The Office and Power Rangers.
(You NEED to listen to this podcast about the refugee, Haim Saban, who hustled his way into the entertainment business, and produced the mega-hit Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and became a billionaire media titan).
It’s always utterly incredible to see how America almost always manages to make their versions of British shows ever so incredibly American…
Content that travels is worth a lot of money. Got Talent was forced to change their position on magic when they realised it outperformed all of their clipped content online. Not only did they start raking in cash with their magic clips, but magicians could easily be flown off around the world to appear on every one of their shows. Succesful Got Talent magicians perform in multiple countries’ “talent shows.”
Now, I should state that there is some debate over what changed Got Talent’s opinion on magic. And there was a sudden change. I do believe that the fact that the clips perform so well is a major reason. The money from 429 million views, with unpaid performers, generates a minimum of $859,000 and most likely millions in Adsense.
It’s impossible to ignore the date. Magic outperforms any other artform in the Got Talent franchise. 20% of the top fifty videos are magic. The only artforms with similar levels of popularity are dance and music. And we already have enough shows celebrating dance and music and Got Talent wants to be the “variety” show.
Televisions shows tend to get preferential treatment in the YouTube ad partnership programme because their content tends to be very advertiser-friendly. The ad placing algorithms favour less risky content and advertisers are rarely upset to see their product alongside an AGT video.
There’s another rumoured reason why AGT loves magic, and it’s that if the winner is a magician, they can easily sell a spin-off magic TV series and a live Vegas show. With AGT set to get a juicy split on their profits for years after their win. How likely is a dancing dog act going to be able to sell a stand-alone TV series and a full vegas live show? Quite unlikely, but I’d sure as heck watch it.
Let’s stick to the fact that magic performs well online, and it travels well. We’ll assume the fact the Got Talent franchise started liking magicians around the same time they started posting clips to YouTube was not a coincidence.
And I know that last week I discussed how magic has genetic reasons that make it great for viral viewing. But going viral is very different from the success AGT sees with its magic content. AGT’s tenth best-performing video is of an unpaid magician, and it has 59 million views. Not only have I never watched it, but I’ve also never heard of the performer.
You see, these clips, even with their many million views, they’re not viral.
Viral content is material, such as an article, an image or a video that spreads rapidly online through website links and social sharing.
To be viral, you need to spread rapidly and across multiple platforms. The lawyer who insisted he was not a cat last week—he went viral. That lovely little cat lawyer spread his fluffy paws all over the interwebs… but it’s hard to find a clip with more than 10 million views.
AGT clips are like cash cows, that grow views slowly, with a compounding interest, in one centralised location. It’s tough to wrap your head around the fact that some of AGT’s videos with upwards of 100m views are not, by definition, “viral.” We’re so used to wrongly associating views with vitality.
One of AGT’s magic videos has 40 million views, I’ve never seen it, and it’s nearly six years old. There are new comments below it as recent as today…. but why?
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