The One Where 'Friends' Unlocks Gen Z Attention

Who would have thought it? The sitcoms of yesteryear that we all grew up with are still commanding massive sums in television rights as terrestrial channels try to pin down shows that will keep large audiences glued to the sofa and streamers seek a lineup that encourages that "just one more" binge-watching feeling.

Anyone with teenage kids and millennial nieces and nephews can testify that The Guardian is spot on today with its analysis that the likes of "Seinfeld" and "Friends" are still massive draws that seem to be churned out endlessly on channels as well as being made available on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

I know our television seems to be permanently stuck on repeats of "Friends" as the kids rediscover those characters, who readers of this column undoubtedly got to know in what now seems another lifetime.

It's worth mentioning because this is the generation that media companies are struggling to reach, as they have grown up with a hugely fragmented entertainment landscape and do not have the habit -- common among older age groups -- of habitually watching the main terrestrial channels as a guaranteed first port of call. 

It's also worth mentioning because, according to the latest research from TVSquared, "Friends" is way out there as a value for money programme to reach Gen Z. 

Strangely enough, it doesn't get the biggest audiences because "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Goldbergs" get three times and twice the audience that an ad in a "Friends" ad break will reach. 

However, "The Big Bang Theory" spots cost four times more, and "How I Met Your Mother" is 69% more expensive. And yet, compared to the latter show, "Friends" sees a 34% uplift in audience response. The researchers claim it is the best show -- in terms of ROI -- for engagement and sales. And yet, unlike in the US, the price of a spot in the middle of the show has not shot up in recent years.

They go further, suggesting that before peak and after peak viewing hours, the ROI for "Friends" cannot be matched and, hence, the researchers suggest brands are now spending less on original, new shows that are designed to reach a Gen Z audience. 

The final stat that may leap out is that it can be many times more expensive to solicit an "upper funnel action," ie, a sale or order, with other shows. The researchers give a figure of "How I Met Your Mother" and "Two And A Half Men" as one hundred times more expensive to solicit an order from a viewer. I'm not so sure about that figure, but it just sounds way too high. However, I pass it on for reference. 

So why "Friends"? Well, the suggestion is that it is evergreen humour that is as relatable now for people in their 20s as it was back when we were in our 20s watching the show. Unlike a series, like "The Big Bang Theory", the characters are very different and non-geeky, meaning that everyone can find a favourite character. Apparently, it also helps that the humour and situations are universal and are not too linked to New York.

In other words, there are no "in-jokes" that the rest of the world cannot understand. This is where "Seinfeld" and "The Goldbergs" miss out because they are undoubtedly rooted in references to New York and Philadelphia. 

Finally, it helps for binge watching that the show is not episodic. Whatever the order they are served up on by terrestrial television, such as Channel 5 in the UK at the moment, the audience can slip straight in without needing to remember what happened in the previous show. 

So there you have it. Want to reach a Gen Z? The top tip is to check out "Friends" which, the researchers suggest, is as relevant to today's twenty something years olds as it was when the shows were first made.

The fact that what seem like endless repeats to us Gen X viewers have not seen a huge hike in spot price means they remain a great value. 

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