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How “Tested Concepts” Shape Our Favourite Genres

March 31, 2023

Shot of a beautiful young woman holding a remote control while sitting on the couch at home.

Namrata Parmar

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Whether we realize it or not, many of our favourite movies, books, and TV shows adhere to certain “tested concepts” that have long-become associated with their respective genres. These ideas or themes have been proven successful in the past and are often replicated by creators looking to capitalise on the success of previous works.

But why do these “tested concepts” persist? One reason is that they appeal to the audience’s expectations and desires. Fans of Chris Hemsworth expect to see intense action sequences and thrilling stunts in his action movies, while romance fans want to experience the excitement of falling in love and the satisfaction of a happy ending.

Another reason is that certain concepts are successful in the market. When audiences respond positively to a particular type of story or theme, creators are more likely to replicate it in future works. This can create a feedback loop in which certain concepts become associated with a genre and are repeated over and over again.

Of course, there is a danger in relying too heavily on these “tested concepts”. Creators must find ways to put their own unique spin on them to avoid becoming too formulaic or predictable.

However, when used effectively, these “tested concepts” can help to establish the conventions of a genre and create a shared language between creators and audiences. By understanding the concepts and how they function within a particular genre, creators can use them to tell compelling stories that resonate with fans and stand the test of time.

Choosing the right concept

Concept testing is a vital step in a product development process as it helps to assess the viability of a new product idea. It’s important to gather as much feedback as possible from potential viewers, and use that information to refine and improve the product before investing time and resources into full-scale development. 

Nepa partnered with one of the largest global streaming service providers in order to do just that. They wanted to know which programme concepts would rank highest in popularity in the ‘Adventure’ genre in a specific market, so they knew where to focus their plans  

Set-up specifics: Up to 10 test concepts and 1-2 control concepts per genre tested. Selection based on natural fallout of men and women 15-74 into two groups of 500, both current & non-customers. 

Each wave started with respondents answering a couple of background and habit questions to segment them into the correct groups. Subsequently, respondents were then exposed to all concepts in a MaxDiff setup, where all respondents were repeatedly asked to select the one program concept out of two they believe will be the most popular. After going through all synopses, the respondent then answered a set of follow-up questions for a selected number of test concepts. 

One concept clearly struggled to gain traction. Respondents ranked it low on the willingness to pay and likelihood to watch scale. A reason for this might be the fact that this is a completely new concept, thus creating higher barriers among the respondents.  

But two Adventure programmes were clear winners, with the highest likelihood to watch and willingness to pay scores, whilst also ranking in the top 3 of the MaxDiff. They were obvious choices on which concepts to move forward. 

In conclusion, tested concepts have a significant impact on shaping our favourite genres. They provide a reliable framework for storytelling, allowing creators to explore and expand upon well-established ideas while also satisfying audience expectations. Whether it’s the “opposites attract” theme in romance, the hero’s journey in action, or the haunted house in horror, tested concepts provide a sense of familiarity and recognition for audiences, while also enabling creators to tell engaging and compelling stories. As such, these concepts are an essential part of what makes our favourite genres so beloved and enduring.