InScope: Why we watch content, about content

Briony Lewis is a Data Analyst for OMD Create Melbourne, helping to unlock data leading to robust insights and more effective campaigns.

As quoted in Forbes, ‘Television has become a form of cultural currency’ used to fuel water cooler conversation. However, time constraints and ‘binge-watchers’ has meant not all Australians can keep up with the latest TV phenomenon. As a result, many are turning to content, about content, in order to succinctly summarise shows they’ve either missed or want to know more on. This has sparked a ‘recap’ culture, where publishers and influencers exchange reactions and recaps of TV as a form of entertainment to further engage audiences.

For example, did you miss an episode of The Bachelorette? Turn to youth publisher Punkee and you’ll get a 5-minute hype-reel of the key outtakes. These videos have averaged between 100-500k views, sometimes even reaching 1M. Missed important details in the GOT finale? There’s an Emmy-nominated YouTube series that parodies and recaps the show. Not sure why people are so obsessed with various Australian TV series? Gogglebox is a TV show dedicated to explaining just that. Recaps can take on the character of any content platform. They exist to re-engage audiences through different mediums such as online video, memes, articles, conspiracy forums and even Twitter threads.

Recap consumption habits have become so popular that at this year’s Cannes Festival of Creativity, YouTube stated 50% of US viewers under 35 watch content that explains other content, weekly. So, what is the psychology behind why we consume content, on content? Familiarity breeds enjoyment and this is formally labelled as the ‘mere-exposure effect’. As quoted in The Guardian, “the collective global attention span is narrowing due to the amount of information that is presented to the public”. Therefore, we have developed a preference for things that are familiar to us. Instead of gravitating to new content, we gravitate to content on a subject we have been exposed to before.

Recaps rely on content that is familiar to us and provides further insight through a pop culture lens. TV has always provided us with a sense of escapism and narrative. Recaps help extend this through validating and engaging audiences with amusement, opinions and reactions.

Looking to the future we expect recap culture to enhance how TV is consumed and how brands become involved through sponsorship, integration and owned content. Channels will work in tangent to extend conversation around content and keep audiences who have different viewing habits engaged. For example:

  • Brands will tap into ad-free SVOD by sponsoring recaps of series such as YouTube channel Screen Junkies and their Stranger Things recap
  • Not only could brands sponsor TV shows, but sponsor popular recap series through product integration and pre-roll
  • Brands may create their own recaps such as James Corden and his content piece on his writer bingeing the entire series of GOT in one sitting
  • Recap content will be distributed with a branded lens which could look like:
    • Dating apps unpacking the science of dating in The Bachelorette
    • Food brands re-creating famous meals from MKR
    • Homeware brands filming real life interior stylists reacting to The Block
    • Auto brands summarising road trips to famous GOT settings

In August, YouTube searches for The Bachelor Australia recaps came in 7th place, after searches for the specific show titles. This suggests that not only is recap culture successfully re-engaging viewers, but it’s helping to bring TV back into water cooler conversations. For brands to participate in these conversations, make sure you’re asking partners how sponsorships can be more content led and know your rights for distributing IP when creating recaps involving content excerpts.

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