Genre Preferences amongst generations

13/05/2019 By Piers Lee

BVA BDRC recently partnered with the School of Management & Communication  at the Republic Polytechnic in Singapore to undertake extensive research to assess the media habits & preferences of Gen Z & Y consumers. From November 2018 to January 2019, we undertook five focus groups (with a diary survey) and 346 quantitative surveys, to assess viewing habits, devices used, the role of TV today, genre preferences, attitudes to advertising, and video gaming behaviour.  We report some of the key findings in our “Talking to Generations” Series…  

Part 3: Genre Preferences

Media companies are having to invest heavily in content, but often lack direction in knowing what consumers really want. Certainly, a lot can be learned from ratings, and these days streaming service providers can try to determine the type of content that consumers want based on:

  • past viewing behaviour, and
  • more advanced analytics based on correlations.

However, research needs to go deeper than just ratings and analytics. BVA BDRC partnered with the Republic Polytechnic in to:

  • determine the underlying drivers of genre preference, and
  • how production companies can best plan for a new generation of viewers.

Of course, studios and production companies can themselves drive viewer preference.  Consumers in our research acknowledged that their interest in Korean and Chinese dramas, for example, is partly because of the considerable investment in the creative industries in these countries.

Western and Hollywood productions are popular for the same reasons, with our research finding that TV series, in particular, are increasing in popularity.  This is likely due to shorter attention spans and a reduction in the amount of time allocated to watching feature films at home.

Our research found that a key factor in determining the success of content is relatability.  It can come in numerous forms, but two effective examples are familiar actors and familiar characters.  We are drawn to films where we know the actors because there is some level of predictability – we have a better idea of what we are investing our time in.  Additionally, if they are cast in an unusual role it can trigger something known as ‘unexpected familiarity’, which is a major driver of content going viral.

Similarly, content around familiar characters triggers the same predictability response.  This is the appeal of multiple productions around the same superheroes, the reinvigoration of Disney characters, remakes, and – of course – sequels…

Our research into media habits found that Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Horror genres appeal more to those with a greater sense of imagination, to those seeking escapism and to those seeking thrills.  But with so much now available through digital special effects and with so many variations on horror themes, it is becoming more difficult for studios to thrill audiences.

Consumers today are becoming more sophisticated and more demanding, making them harder to satisfy.  The Millennial generation – who were heavily represented in our study – is one of the most studied generations ever.  A lot of their consumer choices are based on authenticity.  It has been suggested that Millennials have been raised with a postmodern worldview.  Social media is making them more informed about people, products, and brands than previous generations.

This impacts their taste in media in a number of ways.  Our research suggests that films based on true stories or real events (and therefore more ‘authentic’) appeal more to a Millennial audience.  This may have led to rise of the drama-documentary; a new genre of feature film that has appeared over the last decade or so.  These are becoming increasingly popular – particularly those that challenge the establishment (such as those themed around the Global Financial Crisis and conspiracy theories of real events in history).

Similarly, while so-called ‘reality shows’ have been popular in the past, ‘Fake Reality’ – like Fake News – is now a major concern for consumers.  Our survey found that only 13% of viewing occasions over seven days were for variety/reality shows.  That said, documentaries were only accounted for on 8% of viewing occasions, which suggests that current documentary offerings are not resonating with Asian audiences.

Download the full 'Talking to Generations' Series

For more information on this study, contact:

Piers Lee (Managing Director of BVA BDRC Asia)