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Audience Satisfaction With Television Drama ANZMAC


									Page 1 of 11                           ANZMAC 2010

           Audience Satisfaction with Television Drama: A Conceptual Model

              Dr. David Gray, Macquarie University,
             Mr. Donald Dennis, Macquarie University,


Television programming is a widely consumed product, yet has received very little attention
from the academic marketing perspective. In particular it lacks an overall audience
satisfaction framework which can be used to guide both academics and television
programmers in the production of multi-episode television dramas. This paper develops such
an audience satisfaction framework and highlights the relevance of segmentation, targeting
and positioning to television programming. It introduces a longitudinal model of audience
satisfaction to provide a customer feedback mechanism to improve the performance of multi-
episode television dramas. It is hoped that future examinations of this model will highlight the
potential benefits of a market orientated approach to television production.

  Keywords: Television, Television Programming, Television Drama, Satisfaction, Market

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Television programming has been a predominant source of entertainment for decades (Belch,
Belch, Kerr, & Powell, 2009; Sharp, Beal & Collins, 2009). Despite a plethora of new media,
television viewers in Australia have maintained approximately four hours of television
consumption per day (Belch, Belch, Kerr, & Powell, 2009; Sharp, Beal, & Collins, 2009).

Although television programming remains a widely consumed product, satisfaction with
television programming has received very little academic attention from the marketing
perspective. This article illustrates the relevance of marketing theory to television
programming and introduces a conceptual model of audience satisfaction with television

The Digital Revolution

The digital revolution has vastly changed potential television viewing experiences (Sharp, et
al., 2009). Today, digital television enables consumers to record and watch live television via
an array of hand-held devices (Lee & Lee, 1995; Sharp, et al., 2009).

The digital revolution has sparked academic debate over the notion of an interactive television
set and, more precisely, the convergence of the internet and television (Lee & Lee, 1995). Lee
& Lee (1995), in their study of how and why people watch television, posit that although
some degree of convergence may occur, the fundamental needs and wants of television
consumers contradict, and will likely impede, the development of an “all encompassing
entertainment and information centre” (p. 16).

Mass communication literature reveals that television consumption may satisfy a range of
different needs inclusive of, but not limited to: entertainment, escapism, learning, passing
time, relaxation, companionship and social interaction (Levy, 1983; Lin, 1993; Perry, 2002;
Rubin, 1983, 1993; Ruggiero, 2000). Lee & Lee (1995) argue that many of these
aforementioned needs are largely irreconcilable with the notion of interactive television. The
need for social interaction, for example, relates to the use of television programming to
develop stronger interpersonal bonds with others (Lin, 1993; Rubin, 1983). In contrast,
conceptualisations of interactive television are often based on the assumption that television
viewing is highly individualistic (Lee & Lee, 1995). Consequently, it has been proposed that
interactive television will only be successful to the extent that the fundamental needs and
wants of television viewers are accounted for (Lee & Lee, 1995).

A Market Orientated Approach to Television Production

Discussion pertaining to interactive television raises the bigger question of what encompasses
a television product offering. A product can be broadly defined as “anything that can be
offered to a market for attention, acquisition, use, or consumption that might satisfy a need or
want” (Keller, 2008). Using the total product concept (Levitt, 1980), the core product of
television is programming or content that satisfies the fundamental need for entertainment,
escapism or any of the aforementioned needs. Technological advancements, such as digital
video recorders (DVR), contrast as product augmenters that provide added value to the core

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In support of this proposition, mass communication scholars have often examined television
viewer uses and gratifications under the premise that television programmes are “products”
that are subject to “consumption” (Lin, 1993; Palmgreen & Rayburn II, 1985). The uses and
gratifications (U&G) theory of mass communication proposes that the needs and wants of
individuals’ drive their voluntary and selective attention to television media (Levy, 1983; Lin,
1993; Perry, 2002)

Ironically, however, consumer satisfaction with the product of television programming has
been greatly understudied by marketing scholars. An extensive search of marketing literature
revealed only one previous study, to the best of the researcher’s knowledge, that has
examined the product of television programming (See: Lu & Lo, 2007).

Lu & Lo (2007) built on extant mass communication literature and investigated the
antecedents and consequences of audience satisfaction to “help increase the effectiveness of
television broadcasting” (p. 354). In doing so, they developed and examined an audience
satisfaction model within the context of television drama consumption in Hong Kong. Upon
empirical examination, television consumer behaviours (expectations, involvement and
connectedness) and program performance emerge as the antecedents of audience satisfaction,
while repeat watching intention, viewer voice, and likelihood to watch embedded
advertisements, appear as the consequences of audience satisfaction. Lu & Lo (2007)
conclude that “broadcasters should try their best to produce more satisfactory programs and
use a satisfaction index as a criterion for setting advertising fees” (p 362); although potential
methods for improving audience satisfaction are not proposed.

Lu & Lo’s (2007) research findings are consistent with marketing scholars who contend that
the implementation of the marketing concept culminates with a satisfied customer base, which
in turn, drives superior business performance (Narver & Slater, 1990). In the month of May
2010, however, five interviews with television executives revealed that entire seasons of
television drama are often produced in advance of broadcast without the aid of systematic
market research. This product-orientated approach leaves television managers unable to
creatively respond to changing market conditions.

In order to expand on scant audience satisfaction literature, Lu & Lo’s (2007) audience
satisfaction model is extended into a longitudinal framework to account for the episodic, and
often serialised, nature of television programming.

                           The Audience Satisfaction Framework

Audience Satisfaction (AS)

A major limitation with Lu & Lo’s (2007) study is that it is cross-sectional, although a
television drama series is a progressively evolving product that comprises many distinct
episodes. As a result, a consumer’s cognitive, affective and behavioural response to a
television series is likely to fluctuate, although the degree of fluctuation is not clear. This
paper focuses on adapting the well established definition of consumer satisfaction (Buttle,
2009; Oliver, 1997) to the context of television consumption. In the context of television
viewing audience satisfaction (AS) is therefore formally defined as the: Television viewer’s
fulfilment response to a television experience, or some part thereof

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Figure 1 presents a longitudinal conceptualisation of the audience satisfaction framework to
be examined in this paper. The inter-related antecedents from Lu & Lo’s (2007) audience
satisfaction construct have been replicated. However, this model differs in two ways. Firstly,
the antecedents outlined in Lu & Lo’s (2007) paper pertain to temporal consumption phases
that are consistent with U&G theory (Lin, 1993). In other words, a consumer’s typological
activity (expectations, involvement and connectedness) with television content respectively
vary across three temporal phases (pre-consumption, consumption and post-consumption) of a
consumption experience. As a result, the audience satisfaction variable is represented as one
that pervades the entire consumption experience. This reflects marketing literature which
posits that television consumers derive satisfaction from anticipating future episodes prior to
consumption, and reflecting on previous episodes post consumption (Russell & Puto, 1999).

Secondly and most importantly, changes in audience satisfaction, as a result of television
drama’s episodic nature, are accounted for by linking consumer expectations with prior
audience satisfaction across a series of episodes. This link is supported in U&G literature
which posits that satisfaction can incrementally change over time (McQuail, 1994), as a result
of differing evaluations of television episodes (Perry, 2002). For example, hypothetically, if a
consumer becomes dissatisfied with an episode of a television drama, their expectations of the
subsequent episode will be affected.

This latter amendment to Lu & Lo’s (2007) audience satisfaction framework relates to the
distinction between transactional and summary satisfaction. Within the context of television
drama, transaction satisfaction refers to the satisfaction a consumer derives from an individual
episode (Oliver, 1997). In contrast, summary satisfaction refers to the satisfaction that a
consumer has derived from an entire television drama series, that is, the satisfaction that has
accumulated from consuming the collection of episodes that comprise the series (Oliver,
1997). Therefore, it is important that any audience satisfaction framework examines the
development of summary satisfaction with television drama. Thus, the following hypotheses
are proposed.

    H1: Audience satisfaction with a prior episode of television drama (ASE) predicts
      subsequent expectations (E) of audience satisfaction.
    H2: ASE has an asymmetric effect on audience satisfaction with a series of television
      drama (ASS). The most recent level of ASE will have the greatest effect on ASS.

Lastly, the dotted dark lines in Figure 1 represent the desired path for both television
managers and television consumers. Television managers would like to increase the
satisfaction of their consumer base along the dotted dark lines, as audience satisfaction drives
profitability (Lu & Lo, 2007; Narver & Slater, 1990). Similarly, consumers seek and consume
television programming to satisfy their needs and generate utility (Lu & Lo, 2007; Oliva, et
al., 1995). However, the dynamic nature of television drama and product-orientated
approaches to their production may result in television series that do not follow this path.

Expectations (E)
The framework depicted in Figure 1 defines expectations as the anticipation of future
consequences based on prior experiences (Tryon, 1994) and the beliefs or predictions about a
product having desired attributes (Oliver, 1980). Satisfaction is often then quantified through
comparing a consumer’s perception of an experience (outcome), with their prior expectations
of that experience (referent) (Buttle, 2009). This measurement method is known as the
expectations-disconfirmation paradigm of consumer satisfaction. The expectations-

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disconfirmations paradigm proposes that if consumers perceive that their expectations have
been met, they are satisfied (Buttle, 2009). In contrast, experiences that exceed or fail to meet
expectations result in positive and negative disconfirmations respectively (Buttle, 2009).
Expectations are an antecedent to involvement with television drama. In other words, higher
expectations that are formulated prior to consuming a television drama episode are positively
correlated with higher degrees of involvement during consumption. For the purpose of this
paper, expectations are formally defined as: Beliefs or predictions about a television program
having desired attributes (Cadotte, et al., 1987).

Involvement (I)
Andrews et al (1990) defines involvement as an individual, internal state of arousal with
intensity, direction and persistence properties. Within a television drama context, intensity
refers to an individual’s degree of involvement or motivation to consume a television drama
(Antil, 1984; as cited in Warrington & Shim, 2000), and is often conceptualised along a
continuum from low to high involvement (Warrington & Shim, 2000; Park, Lee & Han, 2007;
Zaichkowsky, 1994; Celsi & Olson, 1988; Oliva, Oliver & Bearden, 1995). Direction has
been defined as the television program toward which an individual is motivated (Mitchell,
1981; as cited in Warrington & Shim, 2000). Finally, persistence refers to the duration of the
involvement intensity (Celsi & Olson, 1988; as cited in Warrington & Shim, 2000). For the
purpose of this paper involvement is defined as: "An individual’s perceived relevance of
television programming based on their inherent needs, values and interests" (Zaickowsky,

Selective-information processing biases may have important implications for this paper, for
example, highly involved and/or connected television viewers may be resistant to decreases in
program performance (Dawar & Pillutla, 2000; Oliva, et al., 1995). Therefore, it is possible
that levels of involvement and/or connectedness may actually mitigate the effects of negative
program performance. Thus, the following hypotheses are proposed.

       H3 : High levels of involvement (I) decrease the effects of negative program
       performance (PP) on ASE, due to disconfirmatory biases. In contrast, low levels of
       involvement (I) increase the effects of negative program performance (PP) on ASE.
       H4 : High levels of connectedness (C) decrease the effects of negative program
       performance (PP) on ASE, due to disconfirmatory biases. In contrast, low levels of
       connectedness (C) increase the effects of negative program performance (PP) on ASE.

Connectedness (C)
Connectedness is a television-specific construct that emerges from consumer behaviour
literature. Audience connectedness pertains to the intensity of relationships that consumers
develop with television characters and their contextual settings (Russell, et al., 2004; Russell
& Puto, 1999). These relationships manifest beyond the immediate television consumption
experience, which may drive connected consumers to seek out interaction with other
consumers (Russell & Puto, 1999). These interactions may pertain to the characterisations,
plots and stories of past episodes and conjectures about future episodes (Russell & Puto,
1999). Such behaviour has been compared to the development of brand communities, where
television viewers use television content to develop brand experiences (Schau & Russell,
As the intensity of a consumer’s relationship with a television program increases, television
programming content begins to become a powerful source of influence that contributes to the
consumer’s personal and social identity (Russell & Puto, 1999). Although connectedness is a

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relatively new concept, connectedness is not a new phenomenon. For example, a well known
example of connectedness manifested as what has become known as the “Rachel” hairstyle
(Russell & Puto, 1999, p. 402). The widely popular television situational comedy, Friends,
generated a trend of females who adopted Jennifer Aniston’s character’s hairstyle, many of
whom associated it with a better social and romantic life (Russell & Puto, 1999)
Lu & Lo (2007) found connectedness to be the strongest predictor of audience satisfaction
with television drama. This is perhaps because those whom become connected with a
television program no longer simply derive satisfaction from the immediate television
viewing experience. For the purpose of this paper, connectedness is formally defined as:
“The level of intensity of the relationship(s) that a viewer develops with the characters and
contextual settings of a program in the parasocial television environment” (Russell, et al.,

Program Performance at an Attribute Level (PP)
Products can be viewed as a bundle of attributes that offer utility to consumers (Oliva, et al.,
1995; Oliver, 1992). Analysing consumer satisfaction at an attribute level, rather than a
product level, offers many additional benefits to consumer researchers and marketing
practitioners. Firstly, consumers are most likely to evaluate their post purchase satisfaction
experiences with respect to a product's attributes (Mittal, Ross, & Baldasare, 1998). Secondly,
consumers may sometimes experience mixed feelings toward a product, yet overall product
expectations as a referent do not successfully capture the true nature of consumer satisfaction
(Mittal, Ross & Baldasare, 1998). Thirdly, looking at satisfaction with a product on an
attribute level is often far more diagnostically useful for researchers and practitioners (Mittal,
Ross & Baldasare, 1998).

Discussions with television executives revealed seven distinct attributes that comprise
television drama (Lu & Lo, 2007). These attributes include 1) topic, 2) theme, 3) scriptwriting
and plot design, 4) dialogue and language, 5) casting and performance, 6) photography and
visual effect, and 7) music and songs. Lu & Lo (2007) hypothesized that the aggregate of
these attributes comprise what they refer to as the “program performance”of television drama.
Empirical evidence revealed that all seven attributes were significant predictors for audience
satisfaction. However, only three of these attributes (scriptwriting, visual effect and music)
were subject to asymmetrical effects. Thus, the following hypothesis is proposed.

       H5: Program performance (PP) attributes have an asymmetric effect on ASE. The
       negative performance of an attribute will have a greater effect on ASE than the positive
       performance of the same attribute.

This paper seeks to extend Lu & Lo’s (2007) study and examine consumer’s evaluations of
attribute performance across a series of episodes. For the purpose of this paper program
performance is formally defined as: The bundle of attributes comprising a television program
that creates utility for the television audience (Oliva, Oliver and Bearden, 1995).

This paper provides an updated conceptual model of audience satisfaction which seeks to
explain how and why audience satisfaction with television drama changes across a series of
episodes. The reconciliation of extant research and the testing of the framework in this paper
should aid television managers in improving the efficacy of their television programming, and
better satisfying their objectives.

           Page 7 of 11                                ANZMAC 2010

                                             Figure 1: Audience Satisfaction with Television Drama: A Longitudinal Model

                                                                                                                     Summary AS
                                                                                  Transactional AS

AUDIENCE                                                                                                                                                PROGRAM
SATISFACTION                                                                                                               PP                           PERFORMANCE (X

                                                                                                                                                        AS S = Audience
                                                                                                                                                        Satisfaction with a
                                                                                                                                                        television series
                                                                                                                                               ASS      AS E = Audience
                                                                                         PP                      E         I              C             Satisfaction with a
                                                           ASE                                                                                          television episode
                                                                                                                                                        PP = Program
                                                                                          ASE                                                           Performance
                                                                                                                                                        E = Expectations
                                                                                                                                                        I = Involvement
                                                 E         I              C
                                                                                                                 H4                                     C = Connectedness
                           ASE                       H1                       E           I                  C

                                                                                                                                                        EPISODE/ TIME
                E         I              C
                                                                                                                                                        (Z VARIABLE)
                Pre1      Con1   Post1          Pre2       Con2   Post2       Pre3       Con3        Post3       Pre4     Con4    Post4       Summary

                Episode One                     Episode Two                   Episode Three                      Episode Four
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