FORT LAUDERDALE, FL: Neuroscience can be an extremely useful tool for television networks seeking to understand the precise preferences of different audience segment, a leading executive from Viacom has argued.

Thomas Grayman, Viacom's VP/Strategic Insights Innovation, discussed this subject at the 2017 Media Insights & Engagement Conference, an event held by KNect365.

More specifically, he referenced a study conducted by Spike, a TV network owned by Viacom, which utilized neuroscience as part of a program aiming to boost its connection with multicultural consumers.

"We wanted to see if there was a possibility to dig a little bit deeper by identifying some things that maybe viewers couldn't – or wouldn't – tell us if they are asked," he said. (For more details, read Warc's exclusive report: Why multicultural TV audiences respond to different drivers.)

"In the issue with race, people are not always going to be as open and forthcoming as you might like them to be. For that, we turned to neuroscience."

Given this context, Spike – which will soon be rebranded as the Paramount Network – tapped the "tools of neuroscience to help us understand preferences – and the differences in preferences among those groups," said Grayman.

At the highest level, he suggested, almost every research participant could be engaged by factors such as humor, relatable situations, suspense, action and displays of skill.

"Regardless of your racial background, there are some things that are near the universal truth in terms of what drives your interest in your favorite program," Grayman said.

But the analysis also offered some granular details regarding various viewer segments. African-Americans, for instance, are particularly looking to be "deeply engaged and deeply enthralled", according to the research.

"They're particularly driven by content that you can't just have on in the background while you're doing something else. They really want to feel, 'If I turn away I'd miss something crucial'," said Grayman.

Hispanic-Americans, the study added, had an "uncommonly high attraction to competition shows where people display some sort of actual talent," he continued.

For Asian-Americans, one key learning was that reality shows based around "genuine competition" and "real talent" were far more popular than sensationalized offerings.

"Asian-Americans noticeably underindexed on the kind of conflict-driven outrageous reality that has been sweeping the basic cable world the last few years," Grayman said.

Data sourced from Warc