The Fading Force of Britain’s Got Talent

For over fifteen years, Britain’s Got Talent has been a flagship series on ITV; a veritable cultural institution offering viewers an exciting and heartwarming mix of entertainment. From singing dogs to gravity-defying acrobats, the programme has had it all. Yet, as the sixteenth series draws to a close, there’s a growing sense of disillusionment and disengagement from the public that cannot be ignored. The show now struggles to draw more than six million viewers on its best nights, a stark contrast to its previous ratings highs. What’s gone wrong? Does Britain simply have no further talent to take to this famous stage, or is there another reason for its fall from grace? 

Britain’s Got Talent: In the beginning

In its early years, Britain’s Got Talent was a revelation in the realm of reality television. The people of Great Britain would gather around their televisions every week, popcorn in hand (crisps are an acceptable substitute, as is takeaway pizza), eager to witness the next unknown talent that would emerge from the show’s stage. But gradually, it seems, the magic started to wane. Most of us remember where we were the first time we saw Susan Boyle and the majority of TV viewers could probably still name Paul Potts as the show’s first winner in 2007 if pressed. With a few obvious exceptions (mostly dancing dogs), you’d likely struggle to name a single winner since then. 

The first significant reason is saturation. There has been a proliferation of reality talent shows in recent years. From The Voice to The Masked Singer, British viewers have been spoilt for choice when it comes to talent programmes – especially those that involve people almost literally singing for their supper. This deluge of similar programming has undoubtedly diluted Britain’s Got Talent’s unique selling proposition, making it just another show on a long list of options.

The second reason could be the ‘YouTube effect’. In today’s digital era, there’s an increasing shift towards platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, where unique and eye-catching performances can be accessed with just a few clicks. The immediacy and convenience of these platforms might have lured younger viewers away from the ritual of sitting down for an hour-long television programme. TikTok and YouTube media can be consumed on demand and instantly shared with friends on social media, generating conversations in a way that traditional television shows simply can’t. 

A shortage of talent

The format and tone of the show itself have also been under scrutiny. Some critics argue that the show has moved away from showcasing authentic, undiscovered talent, focusing instead on sensationalised acts that aim more for shock value than genuine skill. To put that another way, the show’s producers stand accused of shoving people out in front of the camera to be laughed at rather than to be appraised for their genuine talents. This has long been an issue with TV talent shows – especially those connected to Simon Cowell – but audiences are increasingly of the opinion that it’s more cruel than it is entertaining. 

A related point of contention revolves around one of the show’s long-standing judges, Amanda Holden. While Amanda has been a key part of the show’s brand for a very long time, public sentiment towards her has recently taken a downturn. Social media has been particularly unkind, with criticism targeting her judging style, perceived insensitivity, and, on occasion, her fashion choices. Whether these criticisms are fair or not, there’s no denying that this public backlash has had a notable effect on viewership. The show made no bones about cutting David Walliams loose when it became clear that his presence repelled more viewers than it attracted. The same may soon become true of Amanda Holden. 

Perhaps the biggest problem with Britain’s Got Talent is also the most obvious one – it’s a show that’s supposed to launch people to stardom. With that in mind, how many people have genuinely been propelled to fame off the back of an appearance on Britain’s Got Talent? Even the show’s winners are rarely seen again after the grand final. Let’s list some people who’ve won Britain’s Got Talent in recent years, along with their talent. We’ve seen Axel Blake, Jon Courtenay, and Lost Voice Guy win as comedians, Colin Thackery win as a singer, Tokio Myers win as a pianist, and Richard Jones win as a magician. How many do you honestly remember? If the answer is “none,” then you surely understand our point. 

Does the show have a future? 

Despite all this, it’s essential to acknowledge that the Britain’s Got Talent brand is still alive and kicking. Six million viewers, while lower than in previous years, is no small feat in today’s fragmented media landscape. The show continues to discover exceptional talents and provide engaging entertainment for many. It’s also still thriving as a marketing exercise. The launch of Slingo Britain’s Got Talent proves this. It’s one of several official BGT products you’ll find at online casinos, and games don’t stay on a casino sister site for long if they don’t draw in players. The fact that casino game developers are still making Britain’s Got Talent games means that someone’s still playing them, even if that “someone” doesn’t watch the show regularly. 

Looking at everything we’ve said above, perhaps the decline in viewership of Britain’s Got Talent could be attributed to several factors. It’s a combination of market saturation, the rise of alternative digital platforms, changes in the show’s format, and public sentiment towards certain judges like Amanda Holden. The show may need to address these issues moving forward, perhaps by revitalising its format, re-evaluating the way it chooses its judges, or finding a way to uniquely coexist with digital platforms.

Regardless of the current state of the show, Britain’s Got Talent has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the British entertainment industry. Its future might currently be unclear beyond the end of the current season, but with the right tweaks and changes, there is hope that it can return to its glory days, bringing us the mix of surprise, talent, and emotion that originally captured the hearts of the British public all those years ago.

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Lee Clarke
Lee Clarke
Business And Features Writer


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