Understanding Online Television and Its Audience: The Handmaid's Tale

Photography: George Kraychyk/Hulu

After a high-profile marketing campaign, which included a Super Bowl ad and an army of handmaids walking the streets of SXSW, Hulu's latest show, The Handmaid's Tale, premiered at the end of April. The show, which AdWeek reported is "elevating the streaming service," has received plenty of buzz and has already been compared to successful Netflix originals including Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

Although the show has already garnered buzz, the key to successful and continued monetization for advertisers and the network is to understand who the audience is and how engaged they are with its content. By leveraging audience affinity data, it is possible to understand online TV audiences better than ever before and draw insights that can inform personalized, cross-device strategies.

Understanding online TV audiences

To better understand those engaging with the show, I ran an Affinio report on the combined audience of anyone following the @HandmaidsOnHulu account – or – anyone who mentioned #HandmaidsTale in the past thirty days. Affinio identified 54,703 individuals who met this criterion.

According to Nielsen, TV-related conversations on Twitter serve as an indicator for general audience engagement. By segmenting and analyzing social audiences, it is possible to understand the nature of the online audience attracted to any show.

The audience visualization below reveals how the +54,000 individuals segmented into eight interest-based communities including Feminists, The Resistance Supporters, and Writers. By segmenting audience members into interest-based communities, we can hone in on each community and uncover their cultural differences and influences with defensible audience data.

Uncovering audience interests

As an example, let's take a look at the self-described "Feminist" audience segment. The reason why this community falls into The Handmaid's Tale audience is contextual. The show, based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, has been hailed as a feminist work since its original publication in 1985, says The New Yorker.

Here are the top 100 interests of the "Feminist" community:

Top interests of this community include:

  • Interests in prominent political figures such as Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama
  • Interests in organizations/causes such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the Human Rights Campaign
  • Interests in media such as The New York Times, Mother Jones, and HuffPost Women

What else can we learn about these audiences?

Affinio's analyses offer a holistic, data-driven view of any audience in real time, providing an unprecedented level of insight. In addition to mapping out the interests of audience members, Affinio analysis also reveals:

  • Who the audience is and how they self-describe
  • Where an audience lives, their age and gender
  • The brands, influencers, TV shows, blogs, music, and news they care about most
  • The content they love as well as the links they share most
  • The domains they read and extract content from
  • The hashtags, keywords, and even the emojis they use most
  • Engagement metrics such as when they are most socially active

Audience insights in action

Understanding demographic and psychographic characteristics of audience segments and mapping their interests is essential for advertisers and networks when creating content and targeted communications.

Although The Handmaid’s Tale is generating a lot of media attention, the network and its advertisers will need to keep a close eye on its viewers to continue to monetize the show and entice viewers. By leveraging affinity data like in the analysis above, advertisers and networks have the cultural insights needed to make better strategic decisions that can maximize social engagement, viewership, subscriptions, ad sales, and more.

Have you watched The Handmaid's Tale? Do you fit into one of the above audience segments? Let us know in the comments.

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