Screen Life: TV in Demand

Yesterday morning, a group of industry professionals packed a BAFTA auditorium in London to hear the latest Thinkbox Screen Life research: TV in Demand.

The research, which follows on from 2012's A View From the Sofa, explains why, with such freedom to watch whatever content they like, whenever they like, UK audiences opt for TV 90% of the time. An outdated medium? Definitely not.

The method

Global insight and brand consultancy company Flamingo and qualitative research consultancy Tapestry, who were commissioned to do the research by Thinkbox, analysed over 100 hours of footage from 18 ‘technologially advanced’ households (74% watched VOD at least once a week) from across the UK. A diary study of 662 adults, across 3692 viewing occasions also provided 250,000 observations.

“Live TV is best equipped to meet all of the needs and that is why it will endure, no matter what new platforms emerge” - Neil Mortensen

Why we watch TV

The researchers explained that in this increasingly fragmented world television brings families together, and at a deeper level, engaging with programmes on a TV screen satisfies six human emotional needs (what they refer to as 'needstates') that VOD viewing alone cannot. The ability to Unwind, Comfort, Connect, Experience, Escape and Indulge. 

“Live TV satisfies all need states, while VOD is the gold plate of Escape,” explained Ian Wright, Managing Director of Tapestry.

See the infographic below for explanation on the needstates.


VOD is terrific at allowing audiences to escape and indulge, but it's less equipped for social interaction than television, with only 30% of occasions being shared compared with 54% of television moments. To feel part of a ‘national moment’, such as Ant and Dec’s Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble or a live football match, live television was also found to be superior.

“It shows that VOD is a brilliant and treasured new way to enjoy TV, but it can’t give people everything they demand from TV,” says Neil Mortensen, Research and Planning Director, Thinkbox.

“Live TV is best equipped to meet all of the needs and that is why it will endure, no matter what new platforms emerge.”

What this means for advertisers

The biggest takeaway for advertisers from this research is that matching their message to the correct needstate increases its effectiveness. Because television satisfies all six needs, a range of narrative styles and advertisers will fit.

For example, if their audience is in an escape needstate (during Downton), give them the message that they are special, said Alfie Spencer, Group Head of Semiotics at Flamingo. If they are watching their favourite indulgent programme (TOWIE ), appeal to their inner-most desires, or if they are watching a programme for comfort (Corrie), a friendly, caring and warm message will be most widely received.

Watch the seminar on demand on or contact to find out how to use this research to craft a more effective campaign.