Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Wait! Don't Turn That Dial! More Excitement to Come! the Effects of Story Length and Production Pacing in Local Television News on Channel Changing Behavior and Information Processing in a Free Choice Environment

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Wait! Don't Turn That Dial! More Excitement to Come! the Effects of Story Length and Production Pacing in Local Television News on Channel Changing Behavior and Information Processing in a Free Choice Environment

Article excerpt

The goal of this study is to test predictions derived from both implicit assumptions made by professional news producers and theoretical predictions derived from the limited capacity model of mediated message processing (LCMMMP) about how the effects of production pacing and the length of television news stories affect news viewers' channel changing behavior and their processing of the news in a free choice viewing context.

Production Changes in a Multichannel Remote Control Environment

In recent years, in order to keep viewers on channel in the multichannel remote control environment, television producers have changed the structure and content of their messages (Bellamy & Walker, 1996). One common change has been to make messages shorter and faster (Bellamy & Walker, 1996; Eastman & Newton, 1995). As Bollier (1989) and Eastman and Neal-Lunsford (1993) noted, practitioners are using more cutting, shorter scenes, faster-paced shows, and more shorthand visual techniques. "Pregrazed" programs like Short Attention Span Theater (Comedy Central) and The Edge (FOX) were designed assuming that if the program itself is changing, the viewer need not change the channel (Bellamy & Walker, 1996).

Changes in Audience Viewing Behavior

Research on channel changing behavior has provided descriptive data on who changes, how often, when, and why. Some viewers rarely change while others change constantly. Ferguson (1994) measured channel changing with college students using an electronic counting device and found that the number of changes ranged from 3 to 396 times per hour, with a mean of 107. Kaye and Sapolsky (1997), also using a mechanical counter, reported a channel changing range of 1.23 to 178, with an average of 36.6. When self-report methods are used, the average frequency of channel changing is much lower but still suggests that many viewers change channels frequently and that long periods of single channel viewing is not the norm (Ferguson, 1992).

Channel changing behavior differs as a function of age and sex. Previous studies have found that younger viewers change channels more often than older viewers (Eastman & Newton, 1995; Greenberg, Heeter, & Sipes, 1988) and males change more than females (Copeland & Schweitzer, 1993; Eastman & Newton, 1995; Heeter, 1985). Ferguson and Perse (1993) found that age and gender interact. Older women change less than older men but younger men and women do not differ significantly.

Research suggests that viewers change channels for many reasons, and the reasons may be related to channel changing frequency (Ainslie, 1988; Ferguson, 1992; Walker & Bellamy, 1991). For example, Heeter and Greenberg (1985a, 1985b, 1988) identified four types of channel changers: those who change rarely, those who change between programs, those who change during commercials, and those who change at all times. Perse (1990) found that 1.8% of adults say they never change, 23.5% report changing between programs, 44.3% change during commercials, and 30.4% change during programs. Moriarty and Everett (1994) also found that most viewers change during program and commercial breaks, but some change at all times.

Walker and Bellamy (1991) report that viewers change channels to see what is on other channels and to avoid commercials. Perse (1998) found channel changing is associated with ritualistic viewing, low attention, and engagement. Eastman and Newton (1995) found that viewers change most during sports and the least during pay-cable movies but that some viewers change channels regardless of genres or content.

Production Pacing, Story Length, and Program Choice

Research in this area has been primarily descriptive, asking what people do and when they do it. Theories about how television's structure and content affect channel changing behavior or about why people change channels have rarely been tested and often reflect the implicit theories or assumptions that appear to be operating in a professional world. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.