Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Getting College Students to Watch a TV Series: Choose The Right Day & Wait for Word of Mouth

Please welcome our guest blogger, Katie Milot, Lafayette College '09.


What gets kids hooked onto certain TV shows? And how can cable networks market their shows to reach the college audience? After asking my friends what they thought, some definite trends started to emerge:

My friend Val, a 21-year-old senior, said: “I think college kids watch whatever their friends are watching...more often than not, they're sharing a TV so they have to compromise with their roommate or if it’s a common room in a dorm--their floor mates. I would have NEVER watched a single episode of Girls Next Door if my roommate didn’t make me watch it with her freshman year. Since I know what’s going on now, I don’t mind it as much and I’ll watch it once in a while.”


Each person I interviewed attributed watching at least one TV show to their roommate or their friends. Watching TV seems to have an underlying social component: it gives people a reason to get together.

However, when it comes to marketing a TV show to the college student, the key is the day it is broadcast. Most channels don’t broadcast their hit series on Friday and Saturday nights because it’s a TV show graveyard. Well for a college student, this TV graveyard extends into Thursdays and maybe even Wednesdays. With the stresses and pressure of school, college students may be going out with friends on Wednesday or Thursday nights to let off some steam. Therefore, if you want to market your TV show to the college audience, your best bet is to broadcast it on a Monday or Tuesday night. Earlier in the week, students are typically staying in to do work and are looking for an excuse to put down the textbook and pick up the remote.


Lauren, a 20 year old sophomore, expressed why her social schedule has prohibited her from watching a particular show: “I wanted to watch The Starter Wife, but its on at 10pm on a Wednesday nights, nights that I am usually out.”

There is an outlet for those shows whose broadcast interferes with the schedule of the avid social butterfly: Post the episodes online. Many TV shows are posted online after the original air date. Not only does it allow students to catch up on the shows they miss, but many students I spoke with also have started watching particular shows online, and are now devoted fans.

Kristyn, a 19-year-old freshman, stated, “I watch Lost because I could watch every season online.” Similarly, Sarah, a 21-year-old junior, said, “My roommate got me hooked last January and made me watch all four seasons of Lost on abc.com and now I can’t wait for the new season to start this week!”

Abc.com isn’t the only place people are watching TV. Hulu is a big go-to to catch up on shows, or a place to start watching them. Family Guy, Lipstick Jungle, and The L Word are all shows people said they started watching online.


In addition to the time of the broadcast and the online availability of shows, there are also some similarities in what kind of shows some college students enjoy watching: Entourage, Gossip Girl, The City and The Hills. What do these shows have in common? They all portray the celebrity life, filled with money, fame and attention from the opposite sex. Perhaps the lives portrayed in these shows appeal to the typical college kid because it’s a life they secretly wish they had.


Hawley, a 22-year-old senior, who is a fan of The City and the Hills said, “ …I watch these shows because I like the clothes and their completely absurd lifestyles. I also find them to be aesthetically pleasing.”

Chris, a 20-year-old junior, who watches Entourage on Sunday night religiously with his fraternity brothers said, “ I mean these guys live the life. They are rich and they get the girls. While they live the high life, I can still relate to them through their humor and the friendship they have with each other.”


There seems to be a fantasy component that contributes to the appeal of these shows, yet they preserve aspects of reality, allowing one to believe that you too can attain this lifestyle. The shows that preserve reality and make them relatable to the college audience seem to be the ones students continue to watch.

From the feedback I have received, it is relatively easy to turn a college student on to a particular TV show. For example, Carolyn, Rachel and Nicole, all 22-year-old seniors, started watching Summer Heights High simply because they saw humorous clips of it on YouTube before it premiered on HBO. They are now avid fans.

For most of these students, it didn’t take a brilliant ad campaign to capture their interest: It took one person to tell them they enjoyed a show, or they randomly came across the show online where they could watch it for free. Perhaps a way to spark interest among college students is to post the pilot episode online or even distribute DVDs of select episodes on campus. Bottom line: It doesn’t take much to distract students from their work, especially if the episode can be watched for free at the convenience of the student.

Guest Columnist
Katie Milot
Lafayette College '09

1 comment:

maria said...
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