With all the talk about cord-cutting these days, it can be hard to truly understand audience behavior when it comes to TV. So we worked with emotion measurement company Canvs to uncover insights about how one subset of over-the-top viewers—Hulu subscribers—are consuming regular TV programming. (Note: An Emotional Reaction is defined as a tweet related to TV programming that contains an emotion as determined by Canvs semantic analysis technology.)
The main question we wanted to explore: Given all the non-linear TV viewing options Hulu subscribers have—including, most notably, Hulu’s Emmy-winning original drama The Handmaid’s Tale—do they end up watching fewer shows from so-called traditional programmers?
The short answer: Nope. Canvs took a close look at a random sample of viewers who expressed emotions (in the form of Emotional Reactions, or ERs) about The Handmaid's Tale on Twitter from Jan. 1, 2017 through Jan. 1, 2018. That group of highly engaged THT viewers, it turns out, also Emotionally Reacted to 8,853 individual TV airings, across 286 original series, a grand total of 47,578 times during the same measurement window.
“Hulu subscribers are voracious consumers of content, no matter where it comes from. This manner of consumption behavior from subscribers pairs quite nicely with the brand’s fan-first market positioning,” said Stuart Schwartzapfel, chief strategy officer at Canvs. “Essentially, Hulu’s subscribers are backing up the company’s branding efforts, which is not an easy thing to do.”
By way of comparison, Canvs also took a look at a random sample of viewers (again, over the same time period) who expressed emotions about American Horror Story—the original series from basic-cable mainstay FX—and found that those viewers consumed 13% less airings compared to The Handmaid's Tale sample audience.
Another finding of the Canvs study: Hulu subscribers are incredibly engaged with live programming: The Handmaid's Tale audience sample skewed dramatically toward live TV in terms of other programming they were Emotionally Reacting to—with news and talk shows that aired during early and late-fringe dayparts showing particularly high emotional resonance with THT viewers.
Also worth noting: The average Twitter follower count of people in The Handmaid's Tale sample audience (N=1,000) was 76,103, besting that of American Horror Story, Scandal and This Is Us combined.
The bottom line: While some may presume that consumers who take advantage of over-the-top TV options are trying to avoid traditional TV programming, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Hulu subscribers, now 20 million strong.
In fact, the streaming service’s brand positioning—which includes its ongoing campaign tagline “Come TV with us,” as well as “TV come true”—seems to be entirely in sync with how its customers actually feel about traditional TV: They’re definitely not trying to avoid it—they just want to watch it (a lot of it) on their own terms.