Georgetown University + Canvs Prove Emotional Reactions Impact Live Viewership


Even in the face of evolving viewing habits, live viewership is still among the most important ways networks and advertisers value and prioritize shows and their audiences. Therefore, finding a way to predict and increase live viewership would be invaluable. That’s what led us on a mission to determine how an audience’s emotions towards a show or its talent impact live viewership for next week’s episode.

In late 2017, Canvs partnered with Georgetown University to determine how people’s emotions determine live viewership. The study, led by McDonough School of Business Professor of Marketing David Schweidel, found that Emotional Reactions (ERs) in response to talent (actors) and the show itself increase the following week’s live viewership.

David Schweidel is no freshman in this area of study. With a Phd. in Marketing from the University of Pennsylvania, David is an expert in the field of customer relationship management and social media analytics. He has also authored a book on the subject, Social Media Intelligence and Profiting from the Data Economy.

In this evolving industry, it’s now more crucial than ever for networks to grasp the real reason viewers are tuning in. We gathered information on 621 episodes across 55 primetime programs, networks (ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS, The CW) and genres (Action/Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy) airing between January and March 2017.

Here’s what we found:

  • Emotional Reactions (ERs) about a show specifically have a positive impact on live viewing.
  • Talent-related ERs had 2X the impact as general Emotional Reactions, but are much less common.

Now let me break this down:

People tune in to watch your program. During the episode, pivotal moments occur. Relationships end, secrets are unearthed, main characters die, and fans start getting hit with all kinds of feelings. They’re happy, sad, excited, sometimes all at once, and they express those feelings on Twitter.

This study found that two types of Emotional Reactions impact live viewership. The first was show-specific ERs, the next was talent-related ERs. For example, the more show-specific emotions they express on Twitter, the greater live viewership will be the following week. To clarify, ‘show-specific ER’ means that the viewer specifically references the show and how they feel without referencing characters, talent, or anything else. If viewers express how they feel about the actors (talent) on the show, you're looking at even bigger gains — a 10%+ increase in live viewership. Talent-related Emotional Reactions had twice the impact in live viewership than non-talent-related ERs.

We are so excited by the results of our Georgetown University study. More than anything else, we’re excited to prove how emotions drive live viewership week over week, and how they can even improve the number of time-shifted viewers in the first 3 days after the airing. We’re proud to watch our clients continue to leverage these insights in the daily decisions they make as they create award-winning, emotion-driven programs.

Learn more about the impact of Emotional Reactions

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