Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

The Psychology of excessive ‘Viewing on Demand’: How might platforms be designed to optimise user autonomy of VOD consumption?

  Jo Parkes (2020 cohort)   www.linkedin.com/in/joparkes

For decades, we have been motivated to watch television for reasons ranging from the habitual or passing of time through to seeking of information or forms of companionship. The ‘why’ we engage with television may be similar but the ‘how’ we engage with it has changed considerably since its inception.

The introduction of Video on Demand (VoD) platforms in the aughts has unlocked viewers from an imposed schedule and drip-fed storylines. This isn’t entirely new as Digital Video Recording introduced in the nineties afforded some planned for flexibility and Video Home Systems (VHS) or Betamax were available before that. However, VoD, particularly with whole series release has made back-to-back (or binge) watching episodes more convenient than ever before.

Binge watching is now a household term but a clear and widespread definition of what constitutes binge has yet to be set. When applied to other activities (eating, drinking, gambling), binge is considered undesirable but in this context, it may be classed as a not so guilty pleasure. Some VoD platforms advertise ‘Binge-worthy TV’ in a way which might come across as crass when applied elsewhere, it’s difficult to imagine that ‘portion control is for suckers’ would be so acceptable as a tagline on a bottle of scotch for example.

Perhaps the difference is due to perceived harms. While a number of studies have shown a relationship between viewing time and negative outcomes (e.g. sleep quality, physical health, social interaction), the direction of that relationship is less clear which may be why there is little guidance on potential risks associated with ‘excessive’ viewing time.

This research is intended to help identify the circumstances in which the consumer may find themselves viewing more than intended, establish if and how much that matters and if so, how it might be addressed. Values centred design will be employed to create a user-friendly VoD interface framework that suppliers can utilise to ensure their consumers have the greatest degree of autonomy over their viewing habits.