University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler and Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein wrote a generally well-received book in 2008 called ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness‘.
It was an accessible assemblage of very well known work in psychology and related disciplines on the biases in human thinking. Interestingly, Sunstein worked for the Obama administration in the ‘Office of Administration and Regulatory Affairs’.
One of the biases highlighted in the book is the so-called ‘Status Quo Bias‘:
This is when people are very likely to continue a course of action since it has been traditionally the one pursued, even though this course of action may clearly not be in their best interest. An example of the status-quo bias at work would be when magazine companies offer trials of their magazines for free, but then, after the trial has ended, continue to send magazines and charge the customer until he or she actively ends the subscription. This leads to many people receiving and paying for magazines they do not read.
In the prime time television business, networks take advantage of this bias by vying for the ratings poll position for their evening news bulletin. ‘Lock in’ of the evening audience at this point flows on through the evening viewership (presumably with diminishing returns as the evening progresses).
Of course, historically the status quo bias also can be seen in what are termed ‘viewing habits’. In New Zealand, Television One (TVNZ) and its corresponding evening news, has had the advantage of establishing itself as the ‘status quo’ option simply because it was the first ‘kid on the block’ (or ‘cab off the rank’), historically.
In that light, it’s interesting to examine the latest TV Ratings (9 April) to compare the extent to which the two competing current affairs shows – TV One’s ‘Seven Sharp’ and TV3’s Campbell Live’ – have done in relation to taking advantage of the ‘status quo’ bias.
Raw ratings figures are from ‘Throng‘ with my own calculations of ‘Retention Rate’ (The inverse calculation might be the ‘Bleed Rate’):
- One News 652,280
- Seven Sharp 474,570
- Retention rate = 72.76%
- TV3 News 256,100
- Campbell Live 214,870
- Retention Rate = 83.9%
From the most recent figures at least, it seems that Seven Sharp has greater trouble taking advantage of the ‘status quo’ bias than does Campbell Live.
There must be something about Seven Sharp, in comparison to Campbell Live, that provokes its channel’s viewers to turn away – or turn off – in greater numbers and proportions.
When it comes to the ‘Nudge’ factor, Seven Sharp seems to excel at nudging viewers away from TV One.
I wonder why that is?