Media research: steering viewers’ attention on video-on-demand platforms

1 Jun 2023

Viewer numbers for streaming programs primarily depend on how they are positioned by providers.

A team led by LMU communication scientist Professor Neil Thurman has discovered that video-on-demand (VOD) platforms can considerably influence viewer behavior by virtue of how, where, and for how long they position certain programs.

According to the study published in the journal Convergence, how long a program is available on a VOD platform plays a decisive role in its attractiveness to viewers. The study also shows that where a program is placed on the VOD platform is important for its success. Programs that are prominently placed on the VOD platform’s interface and on the channel’s website, for example, record higher viewer numbers.

By contrast, the study shows that the genre of a program, which is often seen as a decisive factor for the preferences of viewers, has a weaker influence on streaming use. In addition, the results suggest that an indicator that a program is high-quality – such as the winning of awards – does not significantly influence viewer numbers on VOD platforms.

“Although streaming platforms often advertise that they offer users a high degree of control, we determined in our study that the strongest influences on viewer numbers for a program depend on the decisions of the platform,” says Thurman. His research team analyzed the use of programs offered by a BBC channel in the course of a year, drawing on data from BARB, the organization responsible for compiling television audience ratings in the UK.

Overall, the results of the study call into question the assumption that viewers of streaming platforms possess a substantially higher degree of control than linear television audiences.

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