Why Aren’t You on TV?
I’m asked every day why Hank and I haven’t tried to create a TV show.
We’ve been approached many times to do TV shows, but while we’re happy to listen and discuss ideas with people, we’ve so far turned down these opportunities, even the very tempting and lucrative ones. Here’s why:
1. When you work with a cable channel or production company, you don’t own the show you make or control the manner in which it is distributed.
2. It’s easy—and only getting easier—to watch shows like CrashCourse and SciShow on your TV.
3. We really believe that what is strong and beautiful about nerdfighteria is that we create it—every day—together. All of us. And if we were on TV, I worry we’d lose that sense of connection, which Hank and I have enjoyed so much the last five and a half years. Like, the Sherlock fandom and the Doctor Who fandom are great communities, but they are about Sherlock and Doctor Who. Nerdfighteria isn’t, and never has been, primarily about Hank or me. It’s about celebrating nerdiness and decreasing worldsuck. We really value that and don’t want it to change.
4. On YouTube, we can make exactly the stuff we want for exactly the people we want. Sometimes that means getting lower ratings (for instance, Thoughts from Places videos are consistently our least viewed videos, but we still really like making them and we know that nerdfighteria really enjoys them, too). Television is driven by viewership, and all viewers are treated equally. So you can’t say to a TV network, “I know we get fewer viewers when we make this stuff, but we get BETTER viewers.” They do not understand that idea. That idea, however, is at the very core of our relationship with our community. As Hank has told me, “I don’t care how many views we get. I care how many made-of-awesome views we get.”
If all we wanted to do was make stuff that lots of people watch, all our videos would be about animal sex. And on some level, if we had a TV show, the emphasis would be on maximizing the number of viewers, not the quality of the community, which is the exact opposite of what we want.
In one conversation with an anonymous cable network, an exec said to us, “Crash Course would be PERFECT if you were a little less nuanced and stuck to topics that interest people. Like, you know, Hitler and sex.” (Direct quote.)
I’ve read tens of thousands of Crash Course comments. No one—NO ONE—has ever asked us to be less nuanced, or to stick to Hitler and sex. That’s what I love about nerdfighteria. Our community is deeply intellectually engaged, even when that means grappling with complexity and ambiguity.
The great joy of my life is that I get to talk with you on a near-daily basis about a huge variety of things that matter to me, and listen to you discuss what matters to you. Right now, that’s not possible on TV, which is (for better and worse) still a medium where people talk to you, not with you.