The impact of Insights on entertainment

4 July 2023

This edition takes an up-close review of the role of insights in the entertainment industry to support the dynamic nature of content development and consumer satisfaction.

9 min read
The impact of Insights on entertainment

The Insight250 spotlights and celebrates 250 of the world’s premier leaders and innovators in market research, consumer insights, and data-driven marketing. The inaugural list was revealed in April 2021, and the 2022 winners were announced in Toronto last September at ESOMAR’s Annual Congress. The awards have created renewed excitement across the industry whilst strengthening the connectivity of the market research community.

The 2023 Winners will be announced on Thursday, 13th July, at a face-to-face session in London and simultaneously online. Register via or use the link below to learn who the 2023 Winners are:

With so many exceptional professionals named to the Insight250, it seems fitting to tap into their expertise and unique perspectives across various topics. This weekly series does just that; inquiring about the expert perspectives of many of these individuals in a series of short topical features.

This edition takes an up-close review of the role of insights in the entertainment industry to support the dynamic nature of content development and consumer satisfaction. I sat down with Natasha Hritzuk, the Vice President of Consumer Insights for Warner Bros. Discovery, to better understand how she delivers consumer understanding in order to drive the strategy and creativity of storylines and characters.

Given this complex nature of consumer understanding, mTab Marketplace assembles a spectrum of market research and data-driven studies from entertainment sources like Comscore, Audience Project, Deloitte, McKinsey, Nielsen, and a myriad of other providers all in one place; in order to help insights professionals gain a firm understanding of consumers in order to meet their needs in real-time. 

Crispin: With the dynamic nature of the entertainment industry, can you talk about the importance of understanding audience trends, behaviours, and preferences?

A critical facet of our work is shedding light on the needs, motivations, and values that trigger behaviours and shape trends. These psychological drivers tend to be more stable, predictable, and enduring than outwardly expressed behaviours and preferences, which can shift and change at a bewildering pace. We’ve seen, for example, a rise in nostalgia viewing across generations and couldn’t figure out why kids born in the 2000s were so interested in shows from the 90s. When we started to investigate what was underlying this trend, we found that social needs were a key driver: first, bonding between Gen X parents sharing their favourite old shows with their kids; second, kids wanting to be part of broader cultural conversations around shows that were shaping the zeitgeist.”

Natasha Hritzuk

What role do insights play in driving media strategies and decisions, and how far out are these strategies generally being developed?

Insights – particularly when they deliver a depth of consumer understanding – are essential to shaping cross-business strategy. Drawing on the example of nostalgia viewing, once we uncovered the critical social role it plays across generations, we’ve been able to draw on that insight to shape content strategy. If we are interested in creating content that drives co-viewing and brings families together to watch a show, then we need to understand the narrative components of shows that drive bonding. We have a focal point for development and testing if we know what outcome we are trying to achieve.”

Where do your greatest insights come from?

Insights come from so many sources! In my experience, the most powerful insights come from seeing a pattern emerging from discrete and multiple sources. Seeing an insight crop up across different studies, from research conducted at different points in time or using different methodologies with different samples – this type of validation is potent. It reinforces that insight has staying power and is capturing something critical. There is also a bit of art to insight generation. Seeing patterns in the data definitely triggers your insights radar, but there is also this sense of “knowing in your gut” that this insight is real.”

Do you feel it is more important to understand consumers or competitors fully? Why?

We always start with the consumer. I believe that the more you have a deep consumer understanding, the more adept you become at anticipating their needs and delivering what they expect. That gives you a competitive edge, particularly if you have clarity around what your company does well and where there is white space (unaddressed needs not being served by any company in the competitive set). If you are only gathering competitive intelligence, it takes a lot of extrapolating to see where you can win or differentiate from a consumer perspective.”

Given the evolving sophistication of consumers, what is the biggest challenge in understanding their attitudes and actions?

In a perfect world, you marry first-party data to distil the behavioural footprint of consumers with primary research to understand the triggers or drivers of that behaviour. First-party data alone is not sufficient – knowing what people do (or did in the past) is only a starting point. And, in this environment, understanding needs, motivations, values, or goals without a clear through line into behaviour can make implementation very challenging.”

Given the growing complexity of competitors, what is the biggest challenge in understanding their strategies and decisions?

We always start with what the consumer is doing, what they think, and whether their needs are met. If we can’t get a direct line into how our competitors are building out their strategy or what’s driving their decisions, we can at least capture whether they are in tune with what consumers care about or expect.

“If competitors are generally meeting consumer needs, then we need to assess the table stakes in their offerings and what white space exists for us to differentiate. Wherever unmet or emerging needs exist, we can identify opportunities to carve out a unique position for our products and services.”

Based on your experience, what advice do you give to help drive understanding of consumers and competitors? In other words, how do you effectively track each side?

We typically have trackers that measure our relative performance compared to competitors across critical dimensions – brand, product, and services. Trackers are helpful at flagging issues or affirming where we’re delivering against consumer expectations. Whenever an issue crops up in a tracker, whether it’s a decline in satisfaction or losing ground to a competitor, we can conduct targeted research to dig into the issue to understand the genesis of the issue and start to flag up opportunities to address or resolve it.”

What are the most significant expected changes in the entertainment insights space in the next few years, and how do you intend to adapt to these changes?

From a business perspective, one of the biggest challenges we’re facing is the volatility of the industry in the face of declining linear subscriptions and the impact on both distribution revenue and ad revenue. The industry needs to figure out how to make up for this immense revenue shortfall, which amounts to a reinvention of the Entertainment business. This requires a two-pronged approach: how do we optimise our core offerings today to continue to drive revenue and invest in content, and what new content formats, platforms, and new business areas do we need to branch into to capture the attention and hearts of younger generations?

From a research perspective, this is exciting stuff. We need to do the right work to anticipate where consumers are heading to ensure our business evolves with changing consumer tastes, habits, and needs.”

Top Tip

Very often, the research we deliver seems to have a short shelf life: we conduct the work, deliver it to stakeholders, and then move on to the next study. Given this cadence, it’s not surprising that stakeholders struggle to remember and absorb output from multiple disconnected studies. Nobody benefits – we feel frustrated that the work is forgotten quickly, and stakeholders feel overwhelmed. 

“One approach to mitigate this issue is to frame research as a continuous learning program wherever possible. Each new study that we initiate builds on historical research so we can connect the work together over time, providing a tapestry of information to our stakeholders. As best practice, when we launch a large-scale initiative, we conduct a foundational piece of research that acts as a topographical map. Each path uncovered by the foundational work flags up new lines of inquiry that form the basis of the next waves of research. By the time we have dug deep into all of the pathways, we deliver to the business a set of interconnected studies that deepen knowledge and drive incremental learning with staying power.”

Thank you, Natasha. Like many industries, entertainment is facing consumers that are more savvy and focused on meeting their immediate needs. This has created a greater reliance on understanding consumers' behaviours, preferences, and tendencies. In turn, the insights roles for entertainment brands are largely becoming the lifeblood of developing successful content and satisfied consumers.

As Natasha explains, “One of the biggest challenges we’re facing is the volatility of the industry in the face of declining linear subscriptions and the impact on both distribution revenue and ad revenue.” Now more than ever, consumers are asking, ‘how have you entertained me lately.'

This is transforming the industry to anticipate content reactions in real time in order to satisfy entertainment cravings on an ongoing basis.

Register now for the launch, on Thursday, 13th July, of the 2023 Insight250 Winners at:

natasha hritzuk Natasha Hritzuk is the Vice President of Consumer Insights for WarnerMedia. She delivers research to deepen consumer understanding across content, marketing, product, and strategy to ensure HBO Max delivers a superior end-to-end consumer experience that powers growth.
Crispin Beale
Senior Strategic Advisor at mTab, CEO at Insight250, Group President at Behaviorally