“Lip Sync Battle” is sometimes seen as a mere celebrity-driven half-hour spectacle.
But after earning two Emmy nominations, accumulating a billion cross-platform views, and reaching 120 different countries, “Lip Sync Battle” has proven it’s worth paying attention to.
For those unfamiliar with the premise, imagine this: one of your favourite celebrities is dressed in an elaborate costume (possibly in drag) — surrounded by backup dancers, elaborate set pieces, and intricate lighting effects — and lip syncing to a canonical song of their choosing. They are also competing against another celebrity doing the exact same thing. A lip sync battle, if you will.
It’s energetic and fun, with an unabashed amount of goofiness thrown in for good measure.
One of “Lip Sync Battle’s” executive producers, Casey Patterson, spoke with Business Insider about how she and her fellow producers got the show off the ground, and what she thinks contributed to “Lip Sync Battle’s” success.
Patterson explained that prior to the show’s launch in 2015, the television industry had been in the midst of a big debate for a couple of years: How do we spend our marketing dollars?
Should advertisers continue to invest in linear television, or move towards investing more in digital? How can all viewing platforms be accounted for? As Patterson puts it, everyone was questioning what the “new world order” of television was going to look like.
Can it be both?
In the midst of this debate, Jimmy Fallon had pitched “Lip Sync Battle” to NBC, which sought to be a hit in both the live and digital realms.
“Lip Sync Battle” had been a short segment on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” which featured Fallon lip syncing with celebrities. The segments did well, and circulated extremely well on their own. But that wasn’t enough to sway NBC to invest in the idea.
Shortly after Fallon’s pitch was rejected, the idea was sold to Spike TV by Patterson, Jon Krasinski, Stephan Merchant, and Jay Peterson.
Patterson explained that she thought that the way Fallon had formatted “The Tonight Show” was perfect:
“We really followed Jimmy Fallon’s instinct for the way he produced ‘The Tonight Show,’ which is he produces that show one viral moment at a time. He’s producing that show in three to five minute segments, and they can each travel and have a life of their own. It was a really brilliant, and intuitive, modern way of thinking about a big institution. So we really applied the same thinking to ‘Lip Sync Battle,’ I looked and thought it’s the perfect new world order.”
Using “The Tonight Show” as inspiration for “Lip Sync Battle,” Patterson explained that they made each of the show’s segments into three to five minutes of action-packed content. “We made it so that it’s not filler — as we call it, it’s killer, no filler,” said Patterson.
The show’s short segments are produced to travel and bring in viewers on digital platforms, and then drive viewers to the live show. “Lip Sync Battle” is now widely known for its clips’ virality. They rapidly gather millions of views when released. And “Lip Sync Battle” currently has higher live ratings than any other show on Spike. It’s safe to say the strategy worked.
People like watching celebs be goofy
Another facet of “Lip Sync Battle’s” success is its use of celebrity.
“Lip Sync Battle” is, at its core, a celebration of celebrity. The show attracts a wide range of celebrity guests, from Anne Hathaway to Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson. All are eager to win their bragging rights as the best lip syncer, and a WrestleMania-style gilded belt announcing them as such.
And with the celebrities, come the fans.
Using popular celebrities to get fans to tune into shows is an old and somewhat tired concept, but the creators of “Lip Sync Battle” strategised, and found a new approach to creating celebrity-centered content that didn’t feel as worn out.
Patterson said that celebrity culture has changed in large part because of social media. The days of tuning into late-night programming and award shows to get access to your favourite celebrities is over, because social media provides access to celebrities 24/7.
“The viewers have total round the clock access to celebrities, and what they’re really like,” Patterson said. So the show had to conform to that.
Everything from the music, to the costumes, to the stunts is dictated by the celebrities. Patterson explained that if something were to feel inauthentic the fans would know, because they know the celebrities, and more so the celebrities know their fans.
Here’s how Patterson described it:
“If anything we did felt pre-packaged, or like it wasn’t their choices, it would reek of being contrived and fake, and we didn’t want to be that. I think audiences are tired of being sold. There are plenty of vehicles where they can go out and promote. And this is one where the celebrities that come on this show know their fans really well, because it works both ways, they know their fans very well because they hear from them directly, it’s not through a publicist. They’re not one step removed, they hear from their fans. The world of being an out of touch celebrity is over.”
The strategy and format employed by “Lip Sync Battle” has since been replicated. “Carpool Karaoke” follows a near identical format to the one created by Patterson and her fellow producers for “Lip Sync Battle” — celebrities having fun for a short period of time.
A simple, yet effective premise, and one that marks the birth of a new kind of television formatting that can live on both linear television, and digital platforms with equal success.
Season four of “Lip Sync Battle” is expected to air January 2018.
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