Monday, April 04, 2016

a little old, but a riff on the rise of immersive content on TV as a substitute for institutional religions, courtesy of Charlie Collier

Charlie Collier is, obviously, not a "disinterested" party here!   But ... with that caveat in mind ... it's interesting to read the proposal that immersive entertainment may be up while loyalty to more traditional/institutional religion has waned.


A third cultural shift affecting today’s television centers on the fact that, statistically speaking, Americans are moving away from institutional religion. Research suggests that this, too, affects our viewership choices, pushing us toward more immersive content.

As recently as the 1980s, according to the General Social Survey, more than nine in 10 Americans identified with some formal religion. Back then, very few people – only five to eight percent of the population – described themselves as religiously unaffiliated. Today, according to Pew Research, roughly a fifth of all Americans, and fully a third of millennials, say they do not identify with any formal religion. (Of course, many Americans today are seeking spiritual connections outside of religious institutions, so it’s worth nothing that while religiosity is, statistically speaking, declining, spirituality doesn’t seem to be).

This shift affects our programming choices in that many of us seem to be using immersive dramas to help us process issues or questions that we previously may have navigated through the more formal venues of religion. So as these institutions, even to a small degree, recede from prominence, we as individuals are taking a more direct and active role in navigating the world. What we consume on television is playing an increasingly important role in personal processes of discovery and acclimatization.

 immersive content will not only prevail, it will become even more prized and more important over time, as the last decade has shown us. That consumers are engaging so fully with these shows makes them all the more valuable to paying advertisers and to brand-building platforms looking to differentiate through the quality of engagement with an audience.

Or as a Calvin & Hobbes strip put it decades ago, when Calvin asks Hobbes what Marx meant saying religion was the opiate of the masses a television bears a thought, "It meant Marx hadn't seen anything yet." While we can cuckle at the proverbial medieval scholastic debates on how many angels could dance on the head of a pin it's a little tough to chuckle too hard if today's pop culture debates can center around ... h ... yeah ... Batman vs Superman?  Captain America vs Iron Man.  Freddy vs Jason.  I mean, have we really changed that much from a millennium ago? 

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