Meanwhile, Gervais also took to Periscope each week, broadcasting a live, online, off-the-cuff talk show where he responds to viewer comments from his den at home as the pandemic postponed his standup tour.
Innovation & Tech Today caught up with Gervais to discuss his embrace of streaming technology as a consumer, filmmaker, and one-man-production studio.
Innovation & Tech Today: How has streaming technology impacted the way you view and create your work, both as an artist and from a business perspective?
Ricky Gervais: It’s incredible because, personally, I always wanted to have the final edit. I wanted it to be my thing, no interference, uncompromised. But to get that final edit, I had to go to a smaller channel that would let me. I had to choose fewer viewers, in a way. So, it was HBO, not NBC, or BBC2, not BBC1.
Then Netflix came along and said, “We don’t interfere; we’ve got even deeper pockets.” With 160 million subscribers, they’re already bigger than the BBC, so it’s a no-brainer.
This was all sort of inevitable. Things on YouTube were already getting more views than something on the telly. “Internet” was a dirty word in Hollywood. But now Netflix, iTunes — all of them — they pay the best wages, have the least interference, and get the biggest viewing figures. So, I don’t know what’s going to compete with that. Everyone’s going to get a piece of it, I think.
I&T Today: So, streaming stigma is over?
RG: I still think there’s a validation needed for things like this. There are YouTubers who get 50 million hits but still want to get on television, because it’s sort of a traditional validation. Their mum doesn’t watch them on YouTube.
I sell out stadiums around the world in an hour by tweeting a link. But I then walk around the city and think, “Oh, I wish I had billboards.” I don’t need them, but I would like them. Everything is technology these days, but there’s something nice and analog about those things.
I&T Today: With your Supernatural comedy special forthcoming and After Life doing so well, do you still feel that kind of nostalgia about your own work?
RG: I suppose I think differently about projects now because I know it’ll have an audience. It’s been 20 years since I wrote a script and wondered if it would get on the telly.
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