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TV Viewers Are More Likely To Tune In To Watch Characters They Hate

29 June 2016, 1:16 pm EDT By Robin Burks Tech Times
Perhaps explaining the wild success of HBO's "Game of Thrones," new data from a study reveals that television viewers tend to tune in more to shows that have characters they can hate.  ( HBO )

Ramsay Bolton, Negan, Fish Mooney, Zoom, Vaughan Du Clark.

Those names may sound a lot like the list once uttered by Arya Stark on Game of Thrones - people she wished dead - but it's actually a list of some of the most hated characters on television. But a new study suggests that these characters are one of the main reasons people tune in to those television shows in huge numbers.

The study, done by Canvs, looked at around 6,000 episodes of reality and drama television shows and cross-referenced Twitter comments about characters on those shows with Nielsen ratings. The Twitter data looked specifically for 56 emotional tags, such as "love," "hate" and "boring."

The results showed that for every percentage point increase in Twitter "hate" comments, the show's ratings increased by 0.7 percent for the next episode. That's about double of what the "love" response showed in the ratings for the next episode at 0.3 percent.

To sum up, the more a viewer hates someone on the show, the more likely that viewer will watch it again and pull other viewers in. This could explain the popularity of shows such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, which have more than their share of hated characters. It also could explain why reality television continues to do well in the ratings.

"If you can't stand a Kardashian, you are more likely to watch the show next week," Canvs founder and CEO Jared Feldman said. "'Hate' is largely seen as negative - every network wants to reduce their negative scores on social media - but this study flips that logic on its head. You actually need 'hate.'"

That hate for characters is one of the key elements in pulling viewers into a plot and keeping them there, giving them something to root against in each episode. And those viewers will inform their friends, who will also tune in and respond similarly.

But what if a series is a comedy? It seems that "funny" isn't quite as important to ratings for sitcoms. Instead, the words "love" and beautiful" are far more important. For every 1 percent increase in the mention of "love" on social media, a comedy gets a 0.1 percent increase in viewership the next episode. "Beautiful" does even better: every 1 percent increase of that word on Twitter results in a 0.3 percent increase in viewership in the next episode.

This data could provide some useful insight for those who create content for television: it seems that when it comes to pulling in the audiences, give them characters they can hate. And if you want to create something funny, give the fans someone they can love and make it beautiful.

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