Wine industry commentator Robert Joseph has recently written about wine on television. The reason we don’t have much wine on TV, he asserts, is because wine isn’t interesting as a subjectfor TV. It’s not visual enough. He lays down a challenge to anyone who disagrees: make a pilot program and see how many views you get on YouTube.
Robert is partly right. Wine doesn’t have the visual interest of food. But he misses (at least part of) the point. Successful television isn’t about the subject. It’s about people. It’s about personalities. Top Gear is the great example here. It used to be a show about cars, written for people with an interest in cars, and although it was good solid television, it had a limited audience, and was somewhat predictable.
Then they brought in three presenters and a format that changed everything. It became huge. People with little or no interest in cars still watched it because it was fun, it was fast paced, and the three presenters were engaging personalities, with James May and Richard Hammond acting as ideal foils for the super-talented Jeremy Clarkson.
What about wine? Well, look at Gary Vaynerchuck, who reached large audiences with a video segment that just involved him tasting wine on camera. He had an amazing talent for it, and lots of people wanted to watch him. Whatever Robert says, Vaynerchuck was huge (he’s stopped making wine shows now), and is now even huger as a social media marketing guru. It’s about the people. The personalities.
There are two types of wine television that could succeed. One is serious programs about wine, made for those with an existing interest in wine. Their audiences will be limited, of course, but there’s no reason they couldn’t work if they realized this from the outset. These shows won’t make prime time national TV, of course.
Then there are personality-driven shows with a fun element. What if, for example, a proper celebrity (and not just someone well known in the wine world) did a wine show? Then wine could really cross over into the mainstream. It’s not about the subject, it is about the people. People are interested in people. That’s the way we are made.
I don’t expect to see wine on prime time national TV any time soon, but unlike Robert, I am not ruling it out. I’d love to see people with talent do something different with wine TV, and I’m certainly not going to tell them not to bother from my vantage point on the sidelines.