The Power of Talking About TV
As humans, we have a need to connect to others – and people love to talk about TV. So, what role does “TV talk” play in people’s lives?
We sought to answer this question in our new study, Did You Watch? The Power of Talking About TV. To do this, we challenged consumers aged 16-49 in Italy, the UK, USA, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia and Australia to go about their lives for two weeks without engaging in any conversations about TV in any form. This meant that no matter where they watched TV content, they could not discuss it with anyone in any way.
This exercise was hard for participants, leaving them feeling “trapped,” “restricted,” like they were “carrying a weight” or had “a lump in their throats.” It revealed how “TV talk” reaches into every corner of life.
More specifically, it uncovered how talking about TV enhances the rewards of watching TV and elevates them to a new level. We found that people benefit from “TV talk” in four main ways:
Joy. It makes people happy to watch TV and feel like they’re a part of something bigger – such as by guessing and playing along with reality or quiz shows, following a complicated story, figuring out whodunnits, or sharing jokes. There is also a genuine pleasure in taking that enjoyment to a deeper level by celebrating the creativity of the content, enjoying the thrill of the debate, and delving into fan theory.
Growth. Talking about TV isn’t just about fun, it expands our horizons. TV can inspire conversations that help adults nourish their interests and learn more about the world. For parents, “TV talk” can be a way for parents to teach important life lessons to their kids. And for anyone, being exposed to new viewpoints can lead to greater compassion and understanding.
Grounding. In these turbulent times, talking about TV grounds us. TV is a safe topic that sidesteps political disagreement and personal judgment. “TV talk” can feel like home when we enjoy the comfort of recalling nostalgic favorite shows of the past – and is a way of being at home when we bond with loved ones while discussing current favorites at the end of a long day. Going much deeper, talking about TV can even make people feel emotionally stronger by helping them process issues and traumas that content stirs up.
Connection. Talking about TV reinforces a sense of belonging with the people in our everyday lives – and helps us establish new connections. Participating in conversations about favorite shows can ease social anxiety and lead to feelings of acceptance. Experiencing the camaraderie of a shared interest in a show helps us forge our social identities. And in new social situations, TV can be a perfect icebreaker to bridge generational gaps or other differences.
This project showed that content’s power to hook audiences is as strong as ever. Talking about content is deeply entrenched in our everyday interactions, from memes to podcasts and everything in between. When people have a reason to engage, they will happily immerse themselves in content through “TV talk.”