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Imagine a cross between Love Island and Big Brother and you would be part way to understanding the hype behind Britain’s first TikTok house.
Launched online last week, Bytehouse has bundled six of the nation’s biggest TikTok stars to live together in a house in London where they are now creating and churning out viral content to a combined audience of 15 million followers. For context, Love Island peaked at six million viewers while Big Brother hit a high of eight million. Bytehouse videos can reach an astonishing 90 million views a week. Pranks, dancing and comedy skits – most lasting no longer than 15 seconds – are par for the course.
The house features two couples and a pair of exes turned best friends. Monty Keates is the youngest at 17, while slow-motion specialist Jake Sweet (SurfaceLDN) is the oldest at 22. The concept has been masterminded by Fanbytes, a talent and production agency run by 25-year-old CEO Timothy Armoo.
“This is a show for gen Z made by gen Z,” says Armoo on a videocall. “These guys have the potential to be the next Graham Norton or Ant and Dec. [TikTok] is where that next talent will come from.”
The blueprint for so-called content houses was established in the US. There, Bel Air mansions flooded with light, space and a collective of generation-Z stars provide an ideal backdrop to make collaborative and solo videos that go viral online. The setup in London is a touch less glamorous and a lot greyer in lockdown, but the ethos remains the same: create a mini content factory and watch viewing figures explode.
Armoo says he thought long and hard about who to pick: “You have to think about who will gel, who will build the group.” The original plan was to introduce a new person to the house every fortnight. “Obviously we went off script and the priority was just moving in before lockdown,” he says. “So we have a young gay couple [Keats and Sebby Wood], Jake and Shawnie [Kibby] are also a couple, we have Lily [Rose] and KT [Franklin] who used to go out. One’s white, one’s black and they’re from completely different backgrounds. Across all six they represent what generation Z are going through, all the questions about identity, sexuality and race.”
A typical day in the Bytehouse will see the six wake up about 10am, then sketch out and film TikTok content until about 7pm before the house goes live to answer questions from fans. The most challenging aspect so far has been a “paralysis of creativity”. Armoo admits that when they’re together, each housemate can be prone to over-thinking and analysing what they did naturally before. “We have to remind them just to do what they’ve always done and not worry about numbers.”
A manager from Fanbytes lives onsite to ensure the smooth running of the house.
Armoo, a computer science graduate from Warwick who set up his first business online at 14, is in talks with production companies to potentially take the show on to TV. He declines to reveal the net worth of the Bytehouse collective and rejects the idea that the house could be exploitative. “This is something that each of them really wanted. It’s an opportunity for them, a stepping stone.”