Ramsay Bolton - 'Game of Thrones'
Ramsay Bolton – ‘Game of Thrones’

Content creators should find the results of this study particularly useful…

According to a social media study by social analytics TV company Canvs, when it comes to dramas, audiences are more likely to continue watching a TV series if they hate one of its key characters or specific situations. In fact, as the study says, hate is more a powerful motivator than love.

On the other hand, words like “love” and “beauty” were better indicators for comedy series.

“We believe emotions drive behavior,” said Jared Feldman, CEO of Canvs. “Everyone wants to know why their ratings go up or down and it is in large part affected by how viewers feel about what they’re watching… If you could know how people react to your content and how your content resonates—not just as a lens into humanity or a way to better understand audience insights, but also as a predictor of what will happen next—this would be incredibly valuable.”

Yes, indeed.

Canvs used program-related Twitter data measured by Nielsen, to better understand how certain words used in tweets about more than 400 new and returning drama, reality and comedy shows, spanning 5,700 episodes, predicted future viewership.

Canvs CEO Feldman said the company analyzed “hundreds of millions of pieces of emotional conversation” in 2015 and wondered how emotions affect what people will do next. After examining the tweets, they realized that for comedy, every 1% increase in mentions of “love” was followed by a 0.1% increase in viewership the next week. For every 1% increase in the word “beautiful,” viewership rose 0.3%.

However, drama series and reality TV shows show a different trend. For every 1% increase in the use of the word “hate,” viewership the following week rose 0.7%. Increases in a word like “crazy” saw an increase in viewership of 0.3% and “love” had an increase of 0.2%. For drama, words followed nearly the same trajectory.

Based on this data, Canvs suggests that TV networks (and all content creators) should be less anxious about aspects of their shows that are hated by audiences if, of course, that hate is directed at certain characters rather than the overall show itself, which is something else entirely.

“This is just crazy commentary on our society that this is true, but it’s true,” Feldman said. “Hate is sometimes about the show in general, but it’s also about characters, and storylines and things that are happening that are creating this tension. I mean if you freaking hate that housewife, you’re actually likely to watch it again.”

Understanding how powerful a motivator hate can be when it comes to watching and staying with content is important, because for any network or content creator surveying their audience, viewers saying they don’t like aspects of a show would likely be instinctively seen as negatives, and something to avoid in future episodes.

“We’re suggesting the opposite,” Canvs CEO Feldman says. “Measure and track it obsessively because this is what’s driving your business.”

He adds that Canvs plans to do more research on this, and get more insights into whether there’s a difference between viewers tweeting about hating a character, and tweeting about hating an episode of a show.

So to summarize, “hate-watching” can be good for ratings. So don’t immediately push the panic button if you discover that your audience hates a specific character on your program, or a specific storyline. There might be a goldmine there to explore.