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Television’s Hierarchy of Needs

As an industry, we frequently talk about the complexity of today’s television ecosystem.  Nearly every aspect of television is complicated.  Multiple screens and thousands of content options have complicated the “what” and the “where”.  Behavioral targeting has complicated the “who” of viewing.

Television has displaced time itself with time shifting and on-demand – and even Einstein had a problem with time travel.

And how do we add simple metrics to television viewing?  We measure ratings, share, HUTs, total audience, impressions, clicks, views, tweets, GRPs, CPMs, CPPs, duration, completion, recency, frequency, reach, first-run, off-net, pod position, cross-platform, duplication, spill, engagement ­– believe me, the list keeps going.

Even the basic state of consumption is problematic.  Television is online.  It’s mobile.  Some have cut the cord.  For some, the cord will never exist.

TV is even Smart.

Nothing is simple.

So knowing that, why don’t we try to scale things back and just look at TV not from the perspective of an industry, but from an audience?  Let’s go back to the basics of television.

What are the fundamental needs of a viewer from television?

One answer might be found in a psychological theory that was born around the same time as television itself.  Let’s look at TV from the perspective of a Hierarchy of Needs.

These needs, as Abraham Maslow originally defined them, were Biological and Physiological Needs, Safety Needs, Social Needs, Esteem Needs, and Self-Actualization Needs.

Can television help people achieve these needs?  From an informational perspective, yes.

The first level, biological and physiological, is the most basic.  It’s food, water, shelter, sleep – basic human functions.  Does TV provide any of these things?  No, but the ads that you see on TV can guide you where to find them.  When you move to a new area, the first thing that you set up is your television.  And it gives you a pretty extended window to your new world.

The safety needs of the second level, along with the social needs of the third level are both met by local broadcast TV news.  This connection is so well-documented that it’s nearly indisputable.

And the definition of “social” that Maslow never could have imagined – social media – thrives with TV content.

The esteem needs and self-actualization needs tend to come from those TV experiences that are more personalized.  It comes from seeing how you fit into the world – the drama, the comedy, the entertainment, the sports; it’s the Art that’s found on TV.

Five fundamental human needs, each met by television.  In fact, three of the most basic human needs are directly addressed by local broadcast television.

So the next time anyone says that they don’t need TV, whether professionally, socially, or personally  – psychologically, it’s perfectly reasonable to question their sanity.

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