TV real-time engagement!
We present a novel approach to observing the level of engagement of television audiences. We use a device that is similar to a fitness tracker to measure a physiological marker of engagement called heart rate variability (HRV). The device allowed us to track, second by second, variation in audience engagement in the laboratory and in several field studies across Latin-American (Mexico, Argentina and Brazil),with over 1000 participants. We believe ours to be the first large field study using this physiological marker of engagement. Our results show substantial variation in engagement across television shows and commercials. On average, however, our audience is as engaged watching commercials as regular programming. Perhaps surprisingly, we find no correlation between HRV and television ratings. We also document an engagement carryover effect. Viewers who watch more engaging shows will be more attentive during commercial blocks, controlling for the quality of the commercial message and audience characteristics. Finally, we showed that higher levels of audience engagement were associated with desirable marketing outcomes such as brand preferences and stated purchase intentions. Our findings have important implications for the effectiveness and pricing of commercial messages on television.
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