Phenomena: The Grapevine and YouTube TV

New advancements in social media platforms and ways to reach broader and more targeted audiences has led to an array of shifts in the media landscape. One in particular that goes unnoticed at times in comparison to other changes is the increasing number of podcasts, television series, and other series-type shows that are shared over YouTube.

A media giant like VICE is able to utilize YouTube in any number of ways - serving new and engaging content to their viewers much more consistently than a normal television program can. VICE offers videos on topics from food to marijuana to the black market and much more. Because YouTube is so user friendly and has been an established media presence for a while now, companies are able to gain bigger followings by simply uploading videos.

Different than VICE but still an effective usage of YouTube is seen in new shows that cover cultural and societal content similar to how a podcast would. One specific example of this is a YouTube show called “The Grapevine.” The show joined YouTube in 2014, and since then has uploaded 54 episodes, many of them if not all having three parts. Each episode averages a little over 20 minutes, and the panel-style discussion show’s topics change each and every week, depending on what is important.

One episode that tackles a particularly sensitive yet pertinent subject is episode 51, entitled “Are Trans Women Real Women”. The subject was sparked from comments made by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist and feminist. Her comments, made in a television interview, garnered harsh responses from those who heard and while she has attempted to clarify her comments, the topic remained in the news. The show centered on this difficult discussion as trans-related news became more prevalent in society. The speakers on the show spoke against her thoughts, but because the comments came from a woman who has spoken in the past as a feminist, the panel thought it deserved to be spoken about.

Another episode of note was a special, airing in between episodes 38 and 39. The episode centered on the presidential election and its effect on society. Because the show is targeted for African American audiences, most of the topics and discussions center around African American culture and how new movements affect them. The presidential election was a particularly impactful moment for people of color around the world, but specifically in the United States.

As POC's and different populations of people learned and adapted to the changing political and societal environment that began with the election President Trump, shows like The Grapevine have a unique opportunity to discuss current affairs. Because this particular show tackles content from the perspective of the African-American community, it obviously has a specific audience. However, many, if not all of the topics discussed are immensely important and pertinent to the current state of society and culture.

An example of discussing current events on The Grapevine came in episode 23, entitled “Oscars So White.” While the topic of inequality and lack of representation of minorities at the Oscars was heavily covered during its time in the spotlight, this YouTube show brings a fresh, interesting perspective to the debate; the lens they view these topics with is one that many people don’t hear about. By opening up to other mindsets and points of view, the viewers of this show are able to reconsider current events and depict them in new ways.

YouTube, as it has expanded and added new advancements to its site, has given television shows a new route to audiences. While there are standard TV shows on YouTube - ones like Family Guy, American Horror Story and Criminal Minds, there are also many other options for users of the media platform that want a change from normal television. Shows like The Grapevine and others are able to discuss and speak their minds on any topics they wish because of the ease of use that YouTube offers.

In addition, with the recent release of YouTube TV by Google, offering 40 channels for $35 dollars a month, there are more reasons than ever for people to move away from traditional television. Television viewers are now looking for content specifically geared for what they are interested in; the advertisements and shows that don’t apply shouldn’t be there, goes the thinking. Other companies offer similar services to what YouTube TV is offering, but this is a substantial movement for YouTube; the platform is changing from a video website to a full-fledged television service.

With this advancement, though The Grapevine and other shows won’t be on the television service, they can hope that as YouTube does add more utilities, that their audiences will continue to expand. Perhaps, as a result of the online audience growth, new ideas being brought up by panel discussions on shows akin to The Grapevine will cause viewers to begin looking at and considering current events with newer, more developed perspectives.