Post-Debate Palate Cleansing: How Hulu Viewers Decompress Following the Debates

As we’ve seen among Generation Stream, TV is constantly serving as a mood management tool. We’ve found that ‘mood’ is a two-way street. On one hand, mood directs streamers to what they watch, and on the other hand, what viewers watch directs their mood.

Given that the recent presidential debates incited a range of moods across political affiliations, we wanted to see if Hulu viewers tuned into the recent presidential and vice presidential debates, and whether or not mood influenced their post-debate viewing behavior. 

Here’s a look at what we’ve learned: 

Hulu viewers are engaged and tuning into the presidential debates.

Amazingly, nearly all Hulu viewers (97%) are planning to vote in the 2020 election. In fact, 84% think it’s important to watch the presidential debates and 59% of our viewers shared that they look forward to them.

Most are watching to stay up-to-date on messages, platforms and initiatives (76%) — they want to stay informed! One viewer stressed the importance of watching the debates: “It’s my civic responsibility.”

On the other hand, some watch the debates for social currency, specifically to have something to talk about with friends afterwards. A few viewers even held watch parties and created drinking games out of the viewing experience to keep it engaging and light. 

Despite Hulu viewers’ appreciation and interest in the debates, they had negative feelings tied to the debate itself. 

The most common feelings that Hulu viewers felt while watching the debates were: annoyed (83%) and exhausted (64%). 

We also asked them to share their debate-related feelings in their own words. They shared that they felt:

How did Hulu viewers decompress after the debates? Comedies! 

Following the debates, Hulu viewers shared they were looking for content that was fun, easy to watch and lighthearted. They said that the debates were “….disheartening and I needed something light to make me laugh,” and “we needed something lighthearted that would not cause anxiety…something funny that we had seen before (no guessing the ending).”

At Hulu, we have a term for watching lighter content after heavier content as a way to decompress; we call this concept Palate Cleansing. We first discovered this behavior when viewers were turning to comedies, like The Golden Girls, immediately after watching The Handmaid’s Tale. We’ve also seen this trend extend to other dramas on our platform. 

Likewise, following the debates, we saw that people were looking to decompress from the heavy content by turning to comedies. Shows that people watched following the presidential and vice presidential debates include: Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, American Dad, and Seinfeld. 

Hulu viewers specifically shared:

Other palate-cleansing content included: home improvement shows (like Windy City Rehab and House Hunters International) and reality competition shows (like Shark Tank, Dancing with the Stars and The Weakest Link). 

Hulu viewers were also drawn to news and late night talk shows after the debates.

In addition to watching comedies, Hulu viewers also tuned into news content for a recap of the night and to “hear a breakdown of thoughts post-debate.” Top news programming included Hannity, The Ingraham Angle, Debate Analysis on MSNBC and ABC News Live. 

Late night talk shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live also topped our viewership after the debates. 

Learning from mood-based streaming.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Generation Stream is leveraging mood to select content, we’ll soon be sharing our MoodTube report on the Generation Stream Hub. You can also find more information on Hulu’s Election 2020 initiatives here.

 


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Andy-Goldberg
ANDY GOLDBERG
SVP, Global Brand Planning & Content
American Express
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Fruit Loops with Toucan Sam
My favorite TV show of all time:
Impossible to name just one but Friday Night Lights is on the all-time list.
I’m here to:
Connect with others on the potential of streaming … how things are changing so rapidly and how brands can be at the forefront of amazing content.

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ALEX LOPEZ
Head of Global Brand Communications & Narrative
Nike
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Q&A With
Gadi Amit

Founder, New Deal Design

Gadi: The development of serendipity in recommendations is very important. An analogy I use is that of a restaurant. If you go to a good restaurant, you don’t always want to see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for surprises. It’s not the expected, it’s the unexpected. You trust in the restaurant’s atmosphere. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you trust their creativity and that you’ll enjoy whatever they serve you.

Do you think it is possible for a streaming service to become that “restaurant” - a trusted source of serendipitous recommendations?

Gadi: I absolutely do. But it is difficult. It’s a long game. It requires them to build trustworthiness with audiences through genuine content recommendations over the years.

Q&A With
Gandi Amit

Found New Deal Design

Gandi: The development of serendipity in recommendations is very important. An analogy I use is that of a restaurant. If you go to a good restaurant, you don’t always want to see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for surprises. It’s not the expected, it’s the unexpected. You trust in the restaurant’s atmosphere. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you trust their creativity and that you’ll enjoy whatever they serve you.

Do you think it is possible for a streaming service to become that “restaurant” -- a trusted source of serendipitous recommendations?

Gandi: I absolutely do. But it is difficult. It’s a long game. It requires them to build trustworthiness with audiences through genuine content recommendations over the years.

Q&A With
Jonathan Miranda

Emerging Strategy Principal, Salesforce

Another expectation among younger generations seems to be personalization. How are you seeing this play out in media?

Jonathan: If you go into the world of advertising and marketing, customized, personalized advertising is more important than ever before. There’s a realization that eight years of funny commercials that we’ve showed everybody probably for the fourth time, doesn’t work anymore. So there’s a lot of companies moving towards specialized advertising.

How does this type of personalization translate to personalizing content beyond advertising? Who’s going to predict what people will want to watch, and do it first?

Jonathan: It’s not about being the first to predict what people want to watch. It's different. It’s about getting viewers to browse. You want to show them the value of all of the money Hulu has spent and the great range of TV and film for them to choose from.

Q&A With
Julie DeTragila

Head of Research & Insights, Hulu

Julie: There are vast differences between the way under 35-year-olds watch TV and over 35-year-olds watch TV. I grew up in a world where there were maybe 10 channels, and my viewing changed as technology and options changed. Younger viewers started from a really different place. Everything has always been on-demand. Anything they ever wanted to see was available to them, and they therefore have different expectations for TV.

How so?

Julie: One of the things we found with Gen Z is that they really want to be immersed in something for a long time. They want to have content that they can live with for a while; it’s like this long, seamless storytelling. They’ll knock off a couple episodes a night and it will last a couple of months. And then they’ll re-watch it a million times over.

What other shifts have you seen happen-with Gen Z but also more broadly-with the rise of streaming?

Julie: For years, television had to deliver a specific rating. Shows had to appeal broadly or else they wouldn’t survive. And those days are long gone because, with streaming services, shows can reach hundreds of thousands of people or tens of thousands of people and still be considered successful. There’s more experimentation with the types of content; we’re not locked into an hour, a half hour, a comedy, etc. The industry can create really niche shows to appeal to niche audiences, but also simultaneously create big, broad experiences that are shared by millions.

Q&A With
Larissa May

Founder, #HalftheStory

Your work focuses a lot on Gen Zs who, for better or worse, are dubbed “digital natives.” How do you think a generation of digitally native audiences view digital content differently than older generations?

Larissa: I think for young people digital content is a way they’re able to explore their own identities through the story... They want to see themselves and their stories in the content that they’re engaging with.

Tell us a little more about this digital content as Gen Z’s form of self-reflection.

Larissa: Digital content is sort of like a currency. I find that young people want to watch things that their friends are watching so that they can have conversations about it. For example, with Euphoria, young people were just kind of in love with the characters. It was very timely and a bit provocative, and then there was a way that they could see themselves in these stories and connect with their friends about the topics and ideas in the show.

And then also they could almost embody these characters in their own life. I really do think that the TV shows that young people are buying into are actually influencing their culture and their trends and even their language that they’re using.

Q&A With
Richard Frankel​

Global Creative Director, Spotify

What does the future of personalization look like?

Richard: I think it’s all down to trust. We're going to see more opportunity on platforms like Hulu and Spotify where the user trusts us.

That’s really interesting. Another area we wanted to explore is podcasts, and their relationship to video. For example, the show Homecoming is an adaptation of a podcast; the podcast Office Ladies is a spin-off from a TV show. Why do you think the two formats work so well together?

Richard: Anything at all that drives conversation in pop culture, and TV does a lot of that, is worthy of consideration in a podcast environment. Any of these conversations can become multiple audio streams that evolve with experts, interviews, and all kinds of narrative threads that can flesh out characters, or narrative development, or whatever's happening in those shows.

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