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How TV Networks Are Reading Your Mind

mind reading

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

The first tactic people are most aware of is each viewers’ ability to ‘favorite’ or ‘like’ a TV series or movie. A few current working improvements Hulu is making to their recommendation system includes an equivalent to a “thumbs down” button— a ‘Stop Suggesting’ feature. After countless requests from viewers, the ‘Stop Suggesting” feature lets customers permanently switch off a recommendation for a show that isn’t relevant. Once live, the feature will have its own button, near the “Add to My Stuff” option, so it will be easy to find.

Ever worried someone will find your guilty pleasure? Don’t stress about it! Hulu says viewers will soon be able to remove items from the Watch History. Whether you share a Hulu account or have frequent visitors over for game night, you don’t have to worry about anyone finding your shows, or messing up your recommendations. You’ll also be able to mark content as  ‘watched’ if you happen to watch the show through another streaming service.

Release Tactics

I think it’s safe to say hardly anyone gets hooked to a TV show from the pilot episode. Personally, I know for myself, it takes a good four to five episodes before I’m invested. Companies, like Netflix, know this and analyze specific watching habits to find just how their viewers get addicted.

Companies are still unsure of what exactly gets viewers ready to binge a show, but there look to be very specific episodes that keep viewers coming back. Typically being hooked within the first five episodes, streaming companies prove that releasing an entire season rather than leaving consumer’s waiting is a much more effective method for building a strong, consistent customer base and a more sure way that customers will return.

Netflix even released exactly what episodes get their viewers attached to the show. A few being the following:

Stranger Things – Episode 3
American Horror Story – Episode 4
Making A Murderer – Episode 4
Narcos – Episode 4
Prison Break – Episode 4
The Good Wife – Episode 5
Gotham – Episode 6
Jane the Virgin – Episode 6
Gilmore Girls – Episode 7

You Viewing TV Viewing You

Being able to view television shows and movies through an online application has definitely changed the game over the past decade. Nearly all content producers now have a direct relationship with each of their customers, something that simply wasn’t possible a few years ago.

The ability to monitor viewers is still perhaps one of the most effective ways networks communicate with customers and get them hooked. They’re not only tracking which shows are most popular, but which trailers are best at leading viewers to additional content, and which viewers have a consistent watching rate compared to who has a more random style.

Perhaps a more classic form of preference collecting, the data pulled from a viewer’s set-top box still delivers valuable information on customer’s viewing habits. Every push on a remote or channel change translates to forms of data that can tell cable and streaming companies what shows are popular in a household, whether shows are played live or being recorded, how frequently a show is watched, or if the show is paused and finished later.

These distributors of content gained a large advantage. Having a very particular edge, they had a lot of control over the producers of the content. If a studio or network wanted information on their viewers, such as who was watching what, paying a good sum of money to gain the information from distributors was the only way.

Whereas more companies are producing streaming content through the internet, there is less of a powerful hold on the distributor’s end, but this may come as a concern to some as technology becomes more advanced and accessible. Under the original model where distributors rule, studios and networks experience an inability to directly engage with viewers, limiting how much impact they actually have on customer engagement. With EEGs coming into place, networks and advertisers from all over will have the ability to soon really be able to read your mind, which we’ll cover in the next segment below.

Biometrics and Neuroscience

The privacy of the viewer and transparency of networks is a growing concern the smarter our technology gets, so companies and governments continue to work together to prevent privacy breach. With laws in place to protect you, there’s plenty of time to get excited over this progressing technology.

Suggestion features are still primarily based on surveys and viewers manually inputting whether they like something or not; however, when asked how we respond to something, we’ll typically overthink it. New biometric data avoids bias, going straight to observing a physical response. Networks have been working in controlled labs to closely study viewing habits and reactions. Areas set up as living rooms host the monitored TV being watched by test subjects. Researchers examine any movement and facial reactions while the subjects are linked to heart rate monitors and other sensors.

Going even further are electroencephalograms (EEGs). Eye tracking isn’t as much an emotional measure, as it is an attention measure, so even if someone is focused on something, their brain may not be responding to it. EEGs will be able to go beyond the physical, into what’s actually going on inside our heads.

The procedure for exercising an EEG test begins by small electrodes and wires being attached to the head. The electrodes then detect brain waves, and the EEG machine amplifies the signals recording them in a wave pattern to a computer screen.

Viacom Media Network’s lab, residing in New York City, includes EEGs to monitor subjects’ brain waves while they are watching television. Also keeping up with the times, ratings firm Nielsen Holdings, which bought neuroscience firm Innerscope Research earlier in 2015, added a facial coding and biometrics to its labs, conducting eye tracking and performing EEGs. Viacom is examining different types of viewer attention and wants to find the best time for a commercial and improve the ratings of many of its top networks, but companies are beginning to realize that just because a viewer’s brain cells light up during a commercial, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to buy the product— they may simply find the commercial engaging, so networks continue to look into possibly doing more with neuroscience research.

Written by Chloe Loveland

Posted on Tuesday, July 24th, 2018