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Television and Its Audience

Television and Its Audience

November 1988 | 220 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
This book by two leading experts takes a fresh look at the nature of television, starting from an audience perspective. It draws on over twenty years of research about the audience in the United States and Britain and about the many ways in which television is funded and organized around the world.

The overall picture which emerges is of: a medium which is watched for several hours a day but usually at only a low level of involvement; an audience which views mainly for relaxation but which actively chooses favourite programmes; a flowering of new channels but with no fundamental change in what or how people watch; programmes costing millions to produce but only a few pennies to view; a wide range of programme types apparently similar to the range of print media but with nothing like the same degree of audience 'segmentation'; a global communication medium of dazzling scale, speed, and impact but which is slow at conveying complex information and perhaps less powerful than generally assumed.

The book is packed with information and insights yet is highly readable. It is unique in relating so many of the issues raised by television to how we watch it. There is also a highly regarded appendix on advertising, as well as technical notes, a glossary, and references for further reading.

Introduction and Overview
Watching Television
Choosing Different Programs
Watching Different Episodes
How Much We Like What We Watch
Broadcast Channels
The New Channels
What it Costs
How We Pay
Televison as a Medium
Concerns about Television
The Future
Appendix A
Television Advertising

Appendix B
Who is Viewing?


`this work serves well to summarize the research, introduce the contextual issues of television marketing, and structure the discussion of these important, stimulating issues. In addition, college students of television audience analysis can use it as a text to stimulate further inquiry into the literature of audience behaviors, and discussion of the methods of postulating impact on these behaviors.' - Journalism Quarterly

'fills a major and inexplicable gap.... there is a lot here which explodes or at least challenges widely held views.... The sketch of the industry and of costs is very good.... Essential reading and an excellent contrast to more semiotic or text-based works.... you'll have to buy this one in person if you're serious.' - Media Information Australia

'presents the results of many research projects in easily digestible form... most of the book's statistics are not at all esoteric and should be of interest to anyone involved in the television industry.' - Ad Day

'a much needed book in an area of increasing concern and interest.... a mine of information, a signpost for future research.... it will be recommended to my students.' - British Academy of Management Newsletter

'an excellent survey' - The Scotsman

`a clear straightforward and well-footnoted survey of British and American research on our viewing patterns.... The conclusions are fascinating.' - Times Educational Supplement

'meticulously structured as a textbook.... The book is compact and well organised.... stimulates thought and understanding and it is difficult to ask more.' - Admap

`Television is perhaps the most written about but least understood of all modern media. Those of us who work in the medium have long felt that to know television we must know how viewers use it today -- something many writers seem to ignore or treat lightly.

Patrick Barwise and Andrew Ehrenberg help change that with a refreshingly new approach that puts the focus squarely where it belongs -- on actual viewing patterns in the 1980's. With their succinct comparison of television systems worldwide, their programming, economics and audiences, Barwise and Ehrenberg provide an excellent overview of a worldwide medium that will be valuable to students, media professionals, and laymen alike.' - William S Rubens, Vice President, NBC

`Television and its Audience is a landmark work. It represents the first thorough and comprehensive statement of what may come to be called `revisionist' communications prognostication. The past decades have seen numerous projections of revolutionary changes in the communications environment, and especially in television. Barwise and Ehrenberg make a strong case that a better term would be `evolution', and especially in regard to televison. This is not to say that there have not been many important changes, and that there will not be more to come. However, the often predicted transformation of television from a mass medium of popular entertainment to somethig quite different -- more serious, highly varied, cultural, in fact -- by technology is highly unlikely, and these authors document why this is so. If they prove decidedly too conservative, they will be the enduring symbol of failed revisionism and mistaken interpretation of data. If they are right, as I think they are, then they will become known as the most prominent of the pioneers who began to take a more conservative view of changes occurring within the mass media.

Television and its Audience has a number of outstanding features. It is international in scope, and this is unusual. It nevertheless is continually pertinent to the American circumstance. It is one of the few books to examine television with audience behavor as its principal concern. Nevertheless, it also covers the various issues that often take stage center -- violence, advertising, program quality, and the like. It is written with great clarity, and the data presented are interpreted with sensitivity. It is good to have it, and I intend to have my students read it for -- I expect -- a number of years to come.

The authors have made a real contribution to communications research and scholarship. I think they will find themselves among the `classics' of the field, such as Schramm, Lyle and Parker's Televsion in the Lives of Our Children.' - Professor George Comstock, SI Newhouse Professor of Public Communication, Syracuse University, New York

`A landmark work, Television and its Audience has a number of outstanding is written with great clarity, and the data presented are interpreted with sensitivity. It is good to have it, and I intend to have my students read it for a number of years to come. The authors have made a real contribution to communications research and scholarship and I think they will find themselves among the `classics' of the field.' - Professor George Comstock, SI Newhouse Professor of Public Communication, Syracuse University, New York

`Television and its Audience fills a tremendous void in our understanding of how audiences actually respond to and value television programming services. As such, it provides a significant addition to the base of knowledge that every programmer, advertiser, and media investor needs in order to comprehend this rapidly changing field.' -- Harold L Vogel, First Vice President, Merrill Lynch Capital Markets

`...a comprehensive overview of the role of television as a social, cultural and economic institution. The compilation of their years of study concerning viewing dynamics -- how we watch television -- is required reading for anyone involved in the television industry or in the study of our society.' -- David F Poltrack, Senior Vice President, CBS

` important publication... Essentially, it is very sound and well-researched. It is certainly very readable and relevant. It also fills a large hole in the literature and will make a valuable contribution to programmes of study in communication... it is certainly a book for what is happening now very widely in Europe and I think its predictions about the future are very sound.' -- Professor Denis McQuail, University of Amsterdam

`literally packed with interesting information about television programming and television audience' - Journal of Communication

`full of relevant information' - Media Education Journal

`The authors must be commended for taking clear, unequivocal, albeit debatable positions on issues that are perceived to be highly problematic within the communication community... a worthwhile resource book for anyone interested in obtaining a general quantified overview of some of the most salient dimensions of people's behavioural reactions to television. It is a research path that is still very prevalent in mainstream communication and that has the undeniable advantage of resonating favourably with our fascination to measure, compare and contrast even the most intangible and dynamic aspects of our nature.' - Canadian Journal of Communication

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