Does a Pandemic Belong in TV Plotlines?

August 7th, 2020

With COVID-19 causing production and filming delays, fall TV will likely look dramatically different than years past (at least there’s sports?). Will the shows currently in production provide a pleasant escape from the pandemic we’re living through or lean into this current climate?

We surveyed 1,608 of our members July 22-24 to gain a sense of what they are looking for on TV both today and in the near future. When it comes to choosing something to watch these days, currently holding the most sway are recommendations from a friend or relative, multiple seasons/the ability to binge-watch, action & suspense (led by males), and/or mindless & lighthearted content (particularly among females and Millennials). To this latter point, 74% of reality TV viewers have appreciated how this genre has helped take their minds off of the current unease. 

With TV serving as a needed distraction for many, how will viewers feel if COVID-19 is front and center on the small screen in the coming months? 

Among reality TV watchers, roughly two-thirds concur that reality TV with the castmates quarantined and unable to travel doesn’t sound as exciting and/or feel “there are more important things to spend my time on these days than reality TV” (64-65%). Sightly fewer also view it as “risky and unnecessary to film reality shows right now” (59%).

When it comes to whether COVID-19 should be a plotline in scripted TV shows set in the present day, our respondents are divided and some interesting generational differences emerge. Nearly half feel COVID-19 should be incorporated only if it directly relates to the storyline, peaking among Gen Z & Millennials. Slightly fewer (43%) complain they hear too much about COVID-19 and don’t want it woven into scripted plotlines, with Gen X & Boomers most emphatic in this regard. A mere one-in-ten expect to see COVID-19 incorporated into the premise of all scripted TV shows set in the modern-day.

While TV has helped pass the hours spent homebound, are people looking to fill their time with travel in the coming months? Stay tuned for an updated glimpse into domestic and global attitudes on travel.

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