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Survey Says: TV

By Featured, SAIC

Illustration by Catherine Cao.

Every month, F Newsmagazine conducts surveys across the student population, seeking to learn what students think about various prominent cultural topics. The first survey, conducted the first week of February 2019, focused on students’ TV-watching habits.

The cultural role of TV is in a state of extreme flux. As viewership migrates en masse to Internet-based media, Broadcast TV has become one more entertainment industry dinosaur. New channels and shows are produced at a seemingly exponential rate. What has traditionally been considered too niche for TV network broadcast — the World Chess Championship, say, or a pre-teen unboxing new toys — has proven viable in this new Internet-based, low-cost model. It’s an unprecedented moment in the history of TV, where the boundary between producer and consumer has narrowed considerably.

F asked students what they watch, when they watch, how they watch, and their opinions on TV’s overall moral value. Conducted in the SAIC Nieman Center Cafe, the survey produced 45 responses; though a low sample size, and limited to whoever happened to be present that day in that location (future surveys will include web forms published in advance of and available after the date of the in-person survey), the results are not decisively representative of the student body writ large. However, the data does allow for some tentative conclusions. Here are some of the more significant findings:

Generally, students are watching full episodes of Netflix comedies before bed. “Full Episodes” led “Clips” with 32 mentions to 9. Netflix led all platforms with 31 mentions (followed by YouTube, 17). “Comedy” led all genres with 26, followed closely by Drama, 21, and more distantly by Reality, 7. “Before bed” led phases of the day with 32 mentions, followed by “During meals,” 14. In all, 13 respondents checked “Full Episodes,” “Netflix,” “Comedy,” and “Before Bed,” with an additional 12 respondents checking any two or three of those categories. Most surprising about this is Full Episodes’ dominance over Clips, which other data would have you believe are more likely to engage viewers.

Students mentioned a total of 42 shows, with only six shows mentioned more than once. That’s almost a show per person. Twelve people listed more than one show as their “favorite show.” This aligns with the notion that contemporary TV is a medium defined by plurality, not singularity. Of shows mentioned more than once, Game of Thrones led the pack, with four.

Streaming dominates. 42 forms listed only online streaming services as platforms of choice. Broadcast TV showed up on only three forms, and was never mentioned as the exclusive favorite. This, too, aligns with conventional wisdom, given that most students probably don’t have access to Broadcast TV, but have immediate access to a deluge of Internet content.

Students have faith in the Goodness of TV. 26 responses marked only “Good,” eight marked only “Evil,” and nine indicated both. One student who marked “Good” went on, calling TV “the best stress reliever.” Those who marked “Evil” tended to elaborate a bit more colorfully; one labeled TV “The essence of why everything sucks,” and another asked, “Is it evil to monopolize the endorphins of the public?”

Click here to examine the full results. Video by Kenny Zhao.

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