Shows From the Small Screen: Latest Research Considers ‘Audiences at a Time of Pandemic’

This year our smartphones, computers and TV screens became our default windows to the world – for news, entertainment and human connection. As gigs, theatres and the majority of cultural experiences disappeared from physical view, we saw a whole of host of unique experiences created for our ‘at home’ delight.

Talented teams across the Creative Industries have been pivoting to digital, adapting their plays, games and festivals to work when delivered to us at home, within the confines of our four walls. Last month we saw Kylie Minogue present a livestream virtual gig that promised to take viewers from ‘solitary isolation to a ‘euphoric dancefloor of togetherness’. A bold and energising promise for these unusual times. But if you’re not the most enthusiastic dancer in the real world – how does that play out in the confines of your own kitchen? Some suggest it adds a whole new level of engagement; for others, there’s nothing like the real thing.

Jonny Freeman, i2 Media Research introduces the Audience Research session at BEYOND 2020

Audience Research Poll at BEYOND 2020

At this month’s BEYOND conference, the Audience Research: Landscape of a Pandemic session explored how lockdown has impacted audience engagement across the Creative Industries. It considered how audiences are motivated to uncover new experiences, with a presentation of key research insights. This included the work of Professor Jonny Freeman, Professor of Psychology (and Academic Lead for Knowledge Exchange) at Goldsmiths, University of London and MD of i2 Media Research Research, in partnership with Nesta.

This encompassed a new audience segmentation based on a large-scale nationally representative survey, completed by i2 media research as part of the Innovate UK and UKRI funded Audience of the Future programme.

Freeman quizzed the BEYOND audience on some of the questions included in the segmentation:

“The audience polls we ran at BEYOND conference told us that that audiences feel uncertain, and are really missing feeling part of an audience collective. This reflects really well some of the key insights i2 media research and Nesta obtained in our Audiences In Lockdown research: that audiences felt pretty negative during lockdown, and are really wanting to feel part of an audience at live performances as soon as possible.”

Jonny continues, “The poll also revealed that the most likely lasting impact of how we have navigated the pandemic is greater use of digital distribution for live performance. Again, this speaks to our Audiences in Lockdown research (and multiple trials and other research reports by others) that new and existing audiences are open to theatre and performance coming to them – even when we’re allowed back in venues. The carnage of the pandemic has caused immense pain and difficulty, but it has also created opportunities for the sector.”

Meet The Audience Insights

Download a summary of the i2 Media Research and BEYOND deck here

Based on the research, i2 Media Research’s recommendations for meeting the needs of audiences whilst generating revenue for cultural organisations include:

  1. Develop a skills pipeline to support innovative production.
  2. Invest in virtual production methods to support remote working and more efficient workflows.
  3. Develop the skills and know-how to distribute a range of digital content options to audiences via innovative and widely adopted technology platforms.
  4. Develop and test new business models e.g., testing audiences’ willingness to pay for a range of digital content types.
  5. Post CV-19, synchronous distribution of live, in-venue and digitally with diverse audiences and increase reach and access to UK cultural content globally.

Download the Research Findings

Download a summary of the research findings and the full deck from i2 Media Research, presented at BEYOND 2020.

Download now

Watch the Audience Research session at BEYOND 2020

Professor Jonny Freeman was joined by Leah Kurta from i2 Media Research and Fran Sanderson from Nesta on the main stage at BEYOND on Monday 30 November for the Audience Research: Landscape of a Pandemic session which BEYOND members can view below (paid access to non-members coming soon).


How has lockdown impacted audience engagement across the Creative Industries, with key research insights from a spread of expert sector representatives.

Watch now.

This year’s BEYOND conference, from 30 November to 03 December 2020, featured 175 speakers across 4 days, with over 80 sessions exploring how the Creative Industries can collectively build back better, but different – sessions from each day of the programme are available to view on-demand.