• ITV research looks at key motivations for watching TV
  • Pleasure dominates, over purpose, togetherness and keeping company
  • Research carried out in partnership with house51 and LSE and revealed at RTS Cambridge

RTS ITV research

ITV research: Unveiled at RTS Cambridge Convention 2019

“Pleasure” is the dominant reason that viewers tune into television, according to new ITV research.

ITV used this week’s RTS Cambridge Convention to unveil research from behavioural scientists house51 and Professor Paul Dolan at LSE into viewer needs in peak time.

The researchers boiled down the motivations for watching TV into four macro needs: “pleasure”, “purpose”, “togetherness” and “keeping me company.” But pleasure was the dominating motivation.

“TV was more often than not tapping into the fundamental need for happiness and therefore relaxation,” said ITV director of audiences, Neil Mortensen, who noted that TV remained enduringly popular with average viewing hovering around the four hours a day mark since the 1990s.

TV offsets the mentally complex and physically taxing stuff that people do every day better than anything else and would likely continue to be popular in the face of digital disruption, said Mortensen.

“Despite all our talk of disruption and changing habits, the fundamental need for this balance is unlikely to change unless something really big happens in our society.”

He said that fundamental viewing patterns are note changed by having another new screen to watch on, faster broadband, or even more TV - it just disperses them differently across the week.

“Our research shows that what does change is our mental and physical energy across the week, and this has implications for programming.”

Mortensen said that energy peaks mid-week, suggesting that viewers have greater capacity for a richer mix of content, and they need a bit more purpose to their viewing.

Sunday, he added, is the most energetic and pleasure focused part of the weekend – perfect for the “warm bath” of a Sunday night drama.

“The need for ‘Togetherness’ interestingly peaks on Wednesday and of course on weekends,” explained Mortensen.

He also outlined the genres and shows that best fit and deliver on the dominant needs of viewers.

Sitcoms, soaps, talent shows, and drama all meet the dominant need for pleasure, said Mortensen, citing shows like Blind Date, Love Island, The Great British Bake Off, Cracker and Line of Duty.

“When we need more purpose, we turn to docs and current affairs, we move to natural history, true crime and news and satire… Sport can deliver togetherness, purpose and if your team wins…pleasure.”