Recently, over 100 employees gathered at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters to learn more about TV’s transformation from Viacom International Media Networks Senior Vice President of Consumer Insights and Analytics Christian Kurz.
Kurz runs VIMN’s research blog, Viacom International Insights, which distills emerging trends about our global audience based upon original research convened by our international operations. Kurz shared intriguing points from his latest study, TV Re[DEFINED], which explores how consumers react to the new age of television.
It was the inaugural event in a series called Insights at Viacom, where industry experts share compelling stories about the latest currents in the entertainment business—all informed by their most recent research and metrics.
Here are seven insights that resonated most as a Viacom employee—as well as a TV consumer.
1. The secret to creating irresistible content? Understand your audience.
Kurz emphasized the value in examining not just how these diverse consumers react to our media and content, but how they live their lives.
“Family structure is no longer two parents, two kids, and a dog,” said Kurz. “When we talk to program creators, we want to make sure the lifestyle changes get across in the content.” Kurz cited Nickelodeon’s pro-LGBT cartoon The Loud House as a prime example of this new representation of the 21st century family dynamic.
2. TV is no longer just TV.
Kids are watching Nickelodeon, but are they watching on an iPad, or a smartphone, or a TV? Are they watching via Nickelodeon’s App, or through Amazon Prime? “I don’t even know what watching Nickelodeon means anymore,” said Kurz.
But Viacom is taking advantage of this media proliferation. Some of Viacom’s most popular programs began as online shorts, including Drunk History and Broad City. New technology allows us to segment our popular shows into online clips, which have potential to go viral. This is often seen on The Daily Show.
3. TV’s global audience provides more opportunity than ever for great ideas to proliferate.
MTV’s sensational reality drama, The Jersey Shore, was repurposed for the U.K. (Geordie Shore), Spain (Gandia Shore), Mexico (Acapulco Shore) and even Poland’s landlocked capital, Warsaw (Warsaw Shore). These are just some of The Jersey Shore’s many international iterations.
As Kurz mentioned earlier, Nickelodeon’s Every Witch Way was inspired by a Latin American telenovela. Kurz and the VIMN team describe this cross-pollination of ideas as “glocal,” a combination of global formats with local context.
“TV has always played a role in globalization of attitudes,” said Kurz. “If people see the same thing, and care about the same things, they’ll understand each other better.”
4. TV used to talk at the viewer—now, it’s a conversation.
“Consumers expect to be heard,” said Kurz. “When somebody sounds off on social media, they expect somebody to be listening. And guess what? We are.”
Viacom constantly welcomes user dialogue via Twitter. BET used the hashtag #DeEscelalateDontKill to raise awareness of police brutality back in July. MTV asked fans to submit their artwork for the 2015 VMA advertisements. The ingenious campaign won a Cannes Lion, and fans were elated to be part of the creative process.
5. TV has become social currency.
“At the last dinner party you went to, how quickly did the subject of a TV show come up?” asked Kurz. “TV is no longer just water-cooler conversation.”
6. This is because viewers believe TV is better than ever.
Instead of having three channels to choose from, we have “gazillions,” according to Kurz. “Nobody watches crap anymore,” said Kurz.
While we all have different interpretations of what makes good TV, the variety of choices available means we have a greater chance of finding something that suits our individual tastes, and we can ignore what we don’t like.
7. Will streaming kill TV? No, because streaming is TV.
“When you ask a consumer what TV really is, they’ll tell you, ‘TV is everything,’” said Kurz. “From an industry perspective, we’re thinking of it very differently.” We view TV through the lens of our jobs—there’s broadcast TV, video on demand, streaming services, and more.
“People are asking if streaming services will kill television,” said Kurz. “The answer to that is, obviously not. Streaming is television.”
We often hear dire predictions of the future of TV from ratings analysts and reporters. These experts ignore the most fundamental part of TV—it’s not for us, it’s for the consumer. And our consumers are thrilled with what we’re creating.