Would you rather watch a horror anthology or a romantic comedy on TV? The answer to that question might seem simple enough, but in reality, it can reveal a lot about who you are and what you believe. At least that’s the theory behind Viacom’s new data-driven exploration, You Are What You Love.
As a part of Viacom’s Fan Theory project, this data visualization investigates the idea that our attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs inform the types of stories we love. To dig into this concept, the team behind Fan Theory looked at some of the most popular TV subgenres today and then broke down the unique psychographic traits that differentiate a subgenre’s fans from the average TV fan.
In exploring this further, five surprising insights came out of the team’s analysis:
1. The Link Between Sports and Intelligence
At first glance, the link between sports and intelligence seems counterintuitive given the frequent “dumb jock” portrayal of sports fans. And historically, watching sports was a form of entertainment and leisure—a way to decompress from the rigors of work and everyday life.
But in recent years, sports fandoms have evolved into something that more closely resembles a science. A hardcore sports fan today isn’t just a fan who shows up to games and knows all of the players on a team—it’s a fan who can break down plays and rattle off advanced stats without blinking an eye.
This rise of knowledge-driven sports fandom reflects what we’ve seen within TV fandoms in the sense that fans today put much more time and work into the things they love. It only makes sense then that they’d be more likely to consider themselves intellectual as a result.
2. The Nature of Needing to Feel Connected
One of the most interesting subgenres to explore in the visualization is nature programming. Fans of shows like Man vs. Wild and Naked and Afraid are more likely to sleep less and less likely to be alone for extended periods of time. But what’s most intriguing about these fans is their need to be reachable wherever they are at all times. Trends like digital detoxing and unplugging feel inherently linked to a desire for reconnecting with the physical world (i.e., nature), so it’s surprising to see that fans of the subgenre have the need to be easily accessible. One potential explanation is that fans of nature programming might use the content in a vicarious sense—watching everything nature has to provide without having to give up the modern conveniences of 24/7 social connectivity.
3. The Ostentatiousness of Documentary Fans
We likely all have one or two snobs in our lives who like to project their knowledge and status, but what you may not know is that person may very well be a fan of documentaries. Three of the differentiating traits for documentaries show that fans of the subgenre are more likely to say “I’m the center of attention,” “I seek high status,” and “I like to show off.” Whether the “snob” label is fair remains to be seen, but the data seems to suggest the characterization may not be entirely a stereotype.
4. The Most Fashionable Subgenres Revealed
This exploration also allowed the team to look at the rankings of the 31 subgenres for a particular attribute or statement. One of the most interesting statements in the visualization is “I dress fashionably.” Ostensibly male-skewing subgenres (like action, fantasy, and sci-fi) top the list, while a female-skewing subgenre (romantic comedy) comes in last. While fashion is certainly no longer a female-focused industry any more than action, fantasy, and sci-fi are exclusive to male audiences, it’s interesting to see how the ranking of subgenres is essentially the opposite from what one would expect for the statement. This is just one example that shows how defining audiences in broad demographics can often overlook pockets of fans.
5. The Surprising Sophistication of “Rugged Reality”
If you were to list off the words that first come to mind when you think of rugged reality TV like Ink Master or Duck Dynasty, “sophistication” probably wouldn’t rank on top. However, the Fan Theory team found that fans of rugged reality TV shows are actually more likely than the average TV fan to consider themselves sophisticated, ranking third among all subgenres. This insight demonstrates a particularly glaring example of how an audience can diverge from who you would think they are and clearly highlights how important it is to understand more than just basic demographics.
Fan Theory’s You Are What You Love provides a glimpse into some of the ways Viacom is looking at audiences. The insights uncovered from this exploration offer a fascinating look at the link between personality and content preferences. Ultimately, it’s critical to know who your audiences is – not just who you think they are. Because once you do, you can create moments and experiences that a drive a real and lasting connection that resonate beyond linear television.