Interest-based Segments of TV Audiences

Ronald E. Frank
Marshall G. Greenberg

In 1977, 73,307,000 households in the United States had at least one television set (Arbitron Company, 1978), which accounts for all but about 2% of households. In a 1974 Gallup Opinion Index Survey, 46% of the population reported television as their favorite leisure-time activity. Reading ranked second, with 14% (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1977). The television set in an average household is on about seven hours a day. Television ranks as the most pervasive leisure-time activity in the United States.

Its importance has made it the subject of a substantial literature, ranging from articles in popular magazines to the most erudite of academic treatises. The vast majority of published work is about program content, viewing behavior, and/or criticism. Surprisingly little has been published regarding the general role of the medium in the lives of its audience. The two principal works are monographs by Steiner (1963) and Bower (1973). The study to be reported on in this paper also focuses upon the uses of television from an audience point of view. It consists of a national survey of audience 'leisure' interests and activities and the needs they satisfy along with television and related media usage and attitudes. It takes a somewhat broader point of view than either Bower or Steiner in that it:-

  • focuses on the use of television in relation to a broad range of leisure interests and activities as opposed to studying television in and of itself;
  • studies the use of television in relation to other media as opposed to studying it in and of itself;
  • attempts to develop a segmentation scheme for the study of how people with different patterns of interests and needs make use of television rather than studying the relationship between demographic variables and viewing behavior.