Lovefilm Vikings interviews: Binge TV, exclusivity deals and Iron Age iPhones
When Lovefilm announced it had acquired the exclusive rights to hit US TV show Vikings, it fired a significant shot across the bows of not only its major video streaming rivals, Netflix, Now TV and the like, but also conventional TV.
The premieres of new US series are normally the domain of Channel Five, Sky Atlantic and other stations, with the video-on-demand exclusivity being fought over further down the line. However, the Amazon-owned Lovefilm has broken the mould and proven that content-streaming services are becoming larger, more valid alternatives to linear TV.
The Vikings deal is particularly interesting. Unlike the original content being made by Netflix and Lovefilm itself with its Amazon Studios Pilots, this is the first instance of an already successful show that was up for international broadcast distribution being snapped up by one of the major internet streaming concerns. It could be the start of a brand new way for showmakers to get their works to a greater audience, without the confines of TV scheduling.
It's certainly a pivotal moment in the future of television.
That's why Pocket-lint spoke to executive producer and creator Michael Hirst and several members of the cast shortly before the entire first season of Vikings is due to hit Lovefilm in the UK on 24 May. We wanted to know if the Lovefilm deal was a significant step in the shift to a whole new era - the era of binge TV.
"I think [binge TV] reflects the way that young people want to access shows and watch shows," we were told by Hirst. "They don’t want to wait a week between shows and so Lovefilm is delivering what they want and that’s obviously a good thing. It’s the future and I'm very happy to be part of the future.
"I remember the 'delicious' way to watch a show (waiting a week at a time) but saying that, habits have changed and Lovefilm is delivering what people increasingly ask for and want.
"It does build up momentum. One of the things about being able to watch a show in this way is that you are inside that world consistently and emotionally and it probably has a larger impact on you. That’s why people binge on shows and can spend a whole weekend watching them. It’s like being transported into a different world, a different environment. And I want people to be transported. That’s why I write historically based material."
However, Hirst doesn't think that binge TV viewing will replace linear TV. Yet.
"I imagine that for quite a while the two will be complementary," he said. "This is still relatively new and there are other demographics of people who will hold on to traditional ways of viewing. I do know and talk to people though who never watch anything live. Everything is on-demand and they get used to consuming things in that way and that is the future."
British actor Clive Standen, who plays Rollo in the show, believes TV has changed perhaps more than some think.
"TV's changed now," he told us. "You can't wait for a week to see an episode. Nearly every episode nowadays ends on a cliffhanger and you can't wait a week. It's ridiculous when you have to wait that long.
"I don't watch a lot of TV. I do the box-set thing with my wife and you do, you find yourself at three in the morning 10 episodes into Breaking Bad or what have you. That's the way to watch it."
Australian lead Travis Fimmel, who plays Ragnar Lothbrok, says that the English perhaps are most into binge TV, and for good reason.
Especially in England. "There are so many rainy days to sit and watch stuff," he joked.
Standen cites the iPad and tablet devices as major factors in the rapid change of TV services.
"Everything's changing now, with iPads and these different tablets. I think it has changed. There's no going back now," he said.
Katheryn Winnick plays the lead female part as Lagertha Lothbrok and she thinks that the rise in "instant gratification" TV is because of a new generation of TV viewers. It's something the studios need to consider.
"It speaks to a different generation," she explained. "Everything right now is on the internet, and I think a lot of studios need to be more aware of this in terms of striking a deal; that this is a new platform and is very significant."
Executive producer Hirst, however, has the final word. Coming from a different generation, he's not as technology savvy as his cast or many of the viewers targeted by the Lovefilm deal.
"I can’t actually switch on the television at home because it’s now too complicated and my son has so many things plugged in to it that I have to ask him to manoeuvre his way to switching it on," he explained.
However, he does feel the vikings would have been real gadget geeks if around today. And may even have queued outside an Apple store on iPhone launch day.
"What we’ve found about the Vikings is that for Iron Age people they were surprisingly technologically advanced," said Hirst.
"If you think about the way they used the sun to navigate across the ocean they were absolutely ahead of their time. The technology they used to build these amazing boats was also something that the Saxons and the French couldn't do at the time, so I imagine that they would love the iPhone. They certainly loved acquiring any technology. They loved acquiring anything!"
Well, perhaps not queued then.