Perhaps no one embodies the evolving home entertainment industry as well as digital media geek Chris Hardwick, recipient of this year’s Deloitte Media and Entertainment Leadership Award. A comedian, actor, writer, producer and podcaster, Hardwick is founder, CEO and creative head of online juggernaut Nerdist Industries, which was initially created as a blog in 2008 but has since grown to include a wide network of podcasts, a premium content YouTube channel, a news division and a television version of the original podcast, which is produced by and airs on BBC America. Hardwick, a self-proclaimed “nerd,” is also the host of Comedy Central’s Emmy Award-winning show “@midnight With Chris Hardwick” and AMC’s Emmy-nominated “The Walking Dead” wrap-up show “Talking Dead,” both of which incorporate several online elements. Hardwick is currently set to host and executive produce the new NBC game show “The Wall” from basketball megastar LeBron James.
Hardwick believes that online interaction is altering entertainment.
“The dynamic of the conversation has changed,” he says, “It’s not a monologue anymore. It is a conversation.”
And as more and more information migrates online, quality content is more crucial than ever, notes Hardwick, “When I was growing up there were just a few networks, and there were these small groups of people who would determine what was disseminated to the masses,” he says. “Now entertainment has really become more of a meritocracy, where the stuff that people want to see gets seen because the gatekeepers have been removed on the digital side.”
Niche content has found a following in the new entertainment landscape and Hardwick has embraced the nerd niche with Nerdist Industries, which he started online in 2008 as “emotional survival” after unsuccessfully chasing jobs in traditional entertainment.
“I just kind of had this epiphany one day where I said, ‘These are the things that I like, that make me happy. I liked science and technology and video games, what was traditionally described as nerd culture. You could never really do any of that stuff when I first started because the entertainment industry felt that nerd culture was too niche back then. But around 2007, 2008, it wasn’t impossible anymore because the Internet had exploded. Our culture was shifting to a niche entertainment culture.”
Nerdist Industries has since spread to podcasts, a YouTube channel, television, and even film distribution. As host of “@midnight” and “Talking Dead,” Hardwick incorporates the online audience that helped him revive his career.
“Those shows are all built around communities,” he says.