Home Opinions Demographics are dead, so what now for programme producers?

Demographics are dead, so what now for programme producers?

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Demographics such as age, gender, and ethnicity have long been the way to identify an audience and to group people for targeting purposes. But, this has never truly allowed broadcasters to understand their viewers. As the competition increases, the use of demographics will continue to hold programme makers back, since they fail to include the characteristics and vital information that provide the basis for a highly effective targeting strategy.


What’s wrong with demographics?

To demonstrate this, imagine you are a broadcaster developing a programme to air mid-afternoon, every weekday. If you decide to use demographics to define your audience, you may assume that targeting women over 40, most likely parents, is a good strategy. However, this assumes that everyone in the same demographic group behaves and consumes media in the same way. You only need to ask a couple of people of a similar age and gender to you what they watch on TV to find the flaw here.

Demographics fail to provide any concrete evidence that can lead to effective programming; they portray stereotypes and offer very little real detail about the person, which ultimately leads to wasted media spend. It’s therefore crucial to look beyond demographics and instead think of viewers in terms of their character, viewing preferences, behaviours and motivations. We want to answer questions like “what makes them choose one programme over another?” and “what will drive them to watch your programme, channel or platform?”. Segmenting your audience in this way provides actionable insight that can lead to increased viewing figures without an increased media spend.


Segmentation in action

At Clusters, we surveyed over 1,000 individuals across the UK to assess their TV viewing habits, and the results revealed six distinct groups, or ‘segments’: ‘Knowledge Hunters’, ‘Device Hoppers’, ‘TV Escapists’, ‘Fans of the Familiar’, ‘Indifferent Onlookers’ and ‘Family Entertainers’. These segments define characteristics, and interests of viewers, whilst also incorporating personal information like their age, political stance and marital status. Unlike demographics, these segments are based on in-depth analyses of real people and paint a detailed picture, rather than showing them as just a quantifiable statistic.

Interestingly, we found that TV habits are largely driven by the number of devices in a household, not the number of television sets, showing a big shift in technology and the influence that it has on us as viewers. One segment in particular, ‘Device Hoppers’, owns a large number of devices and tends to view programmes ‘on-the-go’. If not out and about, they’re likely to be in their bedroom when at home, consuming programming whilst using other devices to check on social-media, or message other people.

In contrast, the segment ‘Indifferent Onlookers’, tends to spend about eight hours a day watching TV to pass the time; these people prefer comedies and talent shows, but have an erratic routine. They don’t use any other devices than a mobile phone, so are not influenced by any other viewing platform. While the two segments mentioned may hold people that belong to the same demographic group, it’s clear that a targeting strategy for ‘Indifferent Onlookers’ should vary dramatically to one which is set to target ‘Device Hoppers’.


The benefits of a good segmentation

With the introduction of segments to target an audience, programming can be made with individuals in mind – real people who share similar characteristics and viewing habits. Programming to a niche like this, rather than attempting to conquer the masses with generic TV, is more successful and can lead to higher viewer satisfaction and audience retention. This personal programming is what demographics alone can never fully achieve.

Segments may also help to predict the way that TV is changing, ‘Device Hoppers’ provide a lot of insight into the future and show ways in which programming can adapt, but the segments can also give broadcasters information as to what doesn’t need to change. From the data, we learn that ‘Fans of the Familiar’ are very much governed by a routine, tuning into things like soaps and football matches and always view at prime-time. For broadcasters, this audience is dependable, as long as the right content is provided.

As well as viewing behaviour, the research uncovered that some viewers are now thinking more in terms of channels rather than the programmes themselves; when asked about what they watch, some viewers answered with ‘e4’ rather than ‘Made in Chelsea’, for example. With this knowledge, broadcasters can cater both their brand voice and image to their viewers using the characteristics and information available through carrying out a segmentation.

The viewing experience looks set to become increasingly personal and more and more programmes will become catered to the individual. Demographics can no longer provide the knowledge that is now needed to produce an effective and quality output. Therefore, to reach and retain viewers, audience segmentation must be considered as part of a successful programming strategy.

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