Rise in UK TV reboots: How brands can capitalise on digital rewatch culture

Posted by Abby Oldroyd in Comment

3 months ago

The resurgence of rebooted reality television shows from the 2000s is evoking nostalgia among fans and reintroducing cult classics to a new generation.

Rewatch culture thrives on TikTok, with US hits such as Gossip Girl and Gilmore Girls as well as British classics such as The Inbetweeners – which has more than 1.5 billion TikTok views – leading the trend.

The rewatch trend might not be anything new but the increase in former shows returning to the UK’s television screens suggests people are seeking something that provides both familiarity and authenticity.

Fans are growing tired of the airbrushed and fame-hungry casts that seem to be popular in current series such as Love Island. The success of the BBC’s reality show The Traitors also indicates a preference for a back-to-basics approach with everyday, more relatable cast members, echoing the origins of British reality TV.

More recently, it was announced that the 2000s cult favourite Mean Girls would be getting a musical reboot. The trailer and tagline – “This isn’t Your Mother’s Mean Girls” – inspired mixed responses and generated huge buzz. Fans took to X (formerly Twitter) to share their reactions after being reminded that the blockbuster hit is almost 20-years-old, with some feeling the generation gap was a little forced.

Given the rapid growth of nostalgia in popular culture, several British reality series have returned to our screens. When Big Brother relaunched in October, it attracted more than 2.5 million people – the biggest audience since 2012 when the show aired on Channel 5, before it was axed in 2018. While the series faced competition in the primetime 9pm slot, going head-to-head with Channel 4’s Married at First Sight, it was praised for “striving for authenticity”. The UK show’s hashtag has more than 800M TikTok views.

Similarly, Millennials and musical theatre enthusiasts welcomed ITV’s MAMMA MIA! I Have a Dream with open arms during the same month. From 2006 to 2010, competition shows such as How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, Any Dream Will Do, I’d Do Anything and Over the Rainbow sought unknown stars for Andrew Lloyd Webber productions, and ITV’s latest reboot replicates the same format – much to viewers’ delight.

BBC One’s reboot of Survivor peaked with four million views and secured 2.5 million on average during its first episode in October. Many have credited its success to its wide-ranging cast. Kalpna Patel-Knight, BBC head of entertainment, told DEADLINE: “[Survivor showcases] representation from all over the UK, people from different ages and from all walks of life.”

TV reboots trend relevance to brands

This reboot trend is relevant to brands for two reasons. Television has always had an impact on consumer purchasing behaviour across all verticals. In 2022, searches featuring the word “Euphoria” on Depop increased by 345% month on month when season two was released in January 2022. Meanwhile, Netflix’s Emily in Paris caused a surge in searches for items such as red berets in the same year. It even has an effect on where people choose to travel and what they choose to eat.

It’s also clear that consumers yearn for everyday characters and TV personalities. Viewers are tired of reality shows such as Love Island that have become hyper-marketed, from the contestants themselves to the products they promote.

As CORQ previously reported, the obsession with nostalgic content shows no sign of abating and as the cost-of-living crisis persists, consumer budgets will take a hit, and capitalising on nostalgic trends is a safe bet for drumming up buzz.

By Abby Oldroyd, CORQ news and features writer. Picture credit: ITV