Ah, December, we meet again. Across the country obscure celebrities turn on village Christmas lights, stilton wheels are rolled out and we all pretend to like Christmas pudding.
And there’s another crucial tradition I’ve not yet mentioned…the yearly ritual of carefully going through the Christmas TV guide and highlighting those shows we simply must watch.
You see, this is the time when family and TV come together more than ever. According to BARB, 74% of our live TV viewing on Christmas Day last year was shared, a leap from the 48% we watch together during the rest of the year.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular programmes of last Christmas. Home Alone 2, the classic feel-good festive film (where two burglars attempt to murder an abandoned 8-year-old boy in New York), was shown on Channel 4 on Christmas Day last year. Almost 90% of those watching live were also watching in the company of others. Wizard of Oz, shown on Channel 5, enjoyed 83% shared viewing and 77% of us who watched last Christmas’ most popular show, Downton Abbey, live on ITV were viewing alongside family and friends.
And nothing says Christmas quite like settling down with family to find out who died and/or committed the murder and/or cheated on their partner in the Coronation Street and EastEnders Christmas Day episodes. It’s all rather bleak but there is something quite wonderful about how it brings family from different generations all together. Conversations and debate will be sparked across the country as we ponder exactly “whodunnit”.
And therein lies the beauty of TV: the experience is heightened when shared with others. TV is a safe starting point for conversation and an easy source of common ground. So when you’re stuck in the living room with your second cousin once-removed, the likelihood is the topic of TV will come up. Whether it’s Game of Thrones, Victoria, National Treasure, Grantchester, Westworld, The X Files (I could go on…) Christmas is a wonderful time to bond over the marvellous content we’ve all enjoyed throughout the year.
TV’s power of conversation cannot be overlooked. Our 2013 research with Keller Fay found that TV advertising drives 51% of all marketing-generated conversations. As a nation we certainly love to chat about TV – both the programmes and the advertising. There are, on average, 17 million conversations just about TV advertising every evening in the UK.
We even like watching people watch TV and talk about it. Gogglebox is now a national treasure and has proved an inspiration to advertisers. Sainsbury’s recently used several of the show’s characters as part of their 2016 Christmas campaign, transforming them into cartoons reacting, as they would in the show, to the supermarket’s festive food campaign.
Sharing your TV viewing is undoubtedly important on an individual level, particularly during the festive period. It provides the opportunity for shared family time, familiarity and also creates an experience that binds friendships and even the nation together. All of these are also significant for advertisers. The social role TV plays within our lives – on- and offline – gets people talking and engaging with content in a way no other media can.
So once we’ve overindulged, pulled our crackers, and told the rubbish jokes, the migration to the TV set will begin. Armed only with paper hats, Baileys and the remote, families across the UK will settle down to watch and talk through the finest festive programming, just as they always have.