Spoiler Alert: TV Social Etiquette

The box set binge is all the rage at the minute but what about the people that haven’t got round to it yet? Have you ever had to hold your tongue about the amazing episode of your favourite show that you watched last night because your friend or colleague isn’t up to date and hasn’t watched it yet? I personally have experienced this first hand, with behaviours ranging from arguments caused by accidental spoilers to headphones or even fingers in ears to avoid overhearing spoiler content. Being up-to-date, or the lack thereof, on TV shows has the potential to drive a wedge between social circles and leave those behind with a fear of missing out akin to other shared experiences.

Box set binge culture disrupted the nature of shared experiences but not to the point of extinction. While platforms like Netflix often release entire new series’ in one go, it’s important to note that less than 20% of the UK population use Netflix (TGI 2017 Q3), and the wait for new episodes one by one still remains prevalent across the television landscape. However, there is a new player in the ring for spoilers; cyber-attacks are common nomenclature in today’s world but rarely do they cause as much daily tension for the average person as with TV spoilers.

Ofcom’s recent report Box Set Britain claimed that 25% of box set bingers were driven by the fear of someone spoiling a programme’s ending. This extends to people actively expressing their fears online and the lengths they’ll go to avoid them.

HBO’s blockbuster programme Game of Thrones was subject to a ‘cyber-incident’ that was linked to content being leaked early, which divided friends, family, colleagues and even strangers. Leaked content negates the need to be up-to-date and introduces a sense of morality into the spoiler landscape. This tempts people with the opportunity to skip ahead while leaving them with a moral issue of waiting for the shared experience of live broadcast or giving into the temptation, which presents them with a separate dilemma of whether they can discuss the content with others or not.

What does this mean for brands?

Some brands have already taken it upon themselves to address this phenomenon head on, with M&Ms releasing their ‘Box Set Etiquette’ content, which included a direct address of the social faux pas of spoiling TV Shows for others.

Now TV encouraged its users not to spoil content for others using Game of Thrones as an example and even implied that post spoilers are not ‘good guys’. This evidences an overarching ideology of what is right and wrong in the TV spoiler landscape and allows brands to engage in a contextually relevant conversation while positioning themselves with a clear positioning that engages an audience that relates to a clear emotion.

The simplest answer is to be considerate of those you care about when discussing potential spoiler content; don’t hold them to ransom with information that affects something that they’ve dedicated hours, even days of their time to. Brands have the opportunity to address these personality types; in-the-know, patient but up-to-date and those fitting their TV consumption into their life. This presents brands with the opportunity to align their values with the varying degrees of social etiquette, positioning themselves as an enforcer of shared consumer values.


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