Being generous leads to bigger audiences


Last week over 100 Lost fans settled into a Leicester Square cinema to watch a complete 121 episode run of the show.

The 4 day marathon was a stunt to launch the final series of the programme on DVD, and, as you would expect for any self-respecting marathon, paramedics were on standby; this was no event for lightweights.

It wasn’t the first TV marathon to attract attention. A Brixton student was sponsored to watch all 238 episodes of Friends last year to raise money for his drama degree, breaking a world record for continuous TV watching. He described experiencing hallucinations – unsurprising, given it’s quite surreal watching the women get ever more bird-like and the men increasingly bovine even when you’re not sleep-deprived – but succeeded in raising £1500, including donations from successful actors in the business through the press coverage.

Complete-series marathons may not be everyone’s idea of fun, and naturally lend themselves to PR stunts, but most of us have embarked on at least a TV “10k” every now and again. And once we get used to watching series episodes back to back, not only does our stamina build but we come to expect it. BBC iPlayer, Sky Plus Series Link and DVD box sets also encourage stacked viewing, and now a mere 50 minutes of our favourite shows can seem tantalizingly little.

This means TV channels could consider being more generous with content from the outset. Currently longer stacks tend to be reserved for catch-up and repeats, with new drama series venturing into double episodes at most. It would be interesting to explore whether extending back-to-back viewing for new dramas, or scheduling content at the same time every evening over a week, could help deliver better numbers in the long term in two ways.

First, in frequency: it’s a chance to convert passive fans into active zealots, as viewers absorb and live the show more intensely, so they enjoy it more and may be more likely to make appointments to view for following episodes.

Secondly, in reach: stacking new content helps give TV that elusive, and ever more crucial, “event” factor. As the show consumes a whole evening it makes a more compelling topic of conversation between the channel and its audience in marketing, and between the audience and their friends.

Susie Braun, Strategic Planner