The Youth Lab


From Disney+ to Animal Crossing, entertainment consumption has sky-rocketed over the past few weeks.

Global Web Index found that over 80% of consumers in the U.S. and UK say they consume more content since the outbreak. When it comes to TV, young people are largely turning to subscription based services, and spending more time (bingeing) there. Research has shown that isolation is making people more inclined to invest in new subscription services, with almost one-third of Gen Zers considering purchasing Netflix, followed by Disney+.

“Overall, viewership on HBO’s direct-to-consumer streaming service has surged 40% since March 14

Binge-watching three or more episodes on HBO Now has jumped 65% compared to the past four weeks, and movie viewing has increased 70%.” AdWeek

While shows about pandemics are becoming hugely popular, it’s important to acknowledge that the content that young people are consuming has a huge impact on psychological well-being.

What are youth binge-ing? Out of nowhere, shooting to the top of Netflix’s top 10 list, is Tiger King. Tiger King, a true crime docuseries, debuted on March 20th and has reigned at the top of the pop culture world since the COVID-19 outbreak - now one of Netflix’s biggest hits of all time. It was watched by 34 million viewers (just in the US) in 10 days, and has since become unavoidable, inspiring 1,000s of memes and opinion pieces. It’s also worth noting that the show has been a hit with critics - it has a 86% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

For this 52INSIGHTS, we spoke to Tiger King viewers (aged 16-35) and asked them 3 questions, to gain an insight into one of the most viewed pieces of content during COVID-19 quarantine.


It’s unique and wild. It’s unpredictable and pure chaotic fun.

“It's about an endangered species that everyone can relate to from seeing them in films or zoos. The species are all inherently beautiful. The people who own the parks are all EXTREMELY unique and would each be capable of anchoring their own shows on their personal lives alone. It's the perfect recipe for reality TV.”

“It’s so outrageous, all the characters are parodies of themselves and make easy punchlines. It’s kind of like a modern day freak also might make people feel better about their own lives.”

“Tiger King is a very more-ish show as it keeps getting crazier and crazier. You think you’ve gotten into the full story and then another insane curve ball hits you. I think young people like it because there’s so much scripted predictable content out there that when something is actually real, and this mad, it's surprising and surreal. The characters feel like they should be made up, but they’re not. It’s golden entertainment, not too long (for those young, short attention spans), accessible and fantastical.”

“The story is so surreal. Joe exotic especially is so immature and crazy it’s amusing to watch, and is very intriguing to watch their story and stupidity unfold.”

“It's absolutely batshit crazy, the characters, the story, the music. It doesn't feel real it's so bizarre.”

“It’s an absolutely outrageous show. In every way. In terms of people and story. The whole thing is also really fast paced. It covers something like 8 years in 7 episodes which is cool. It covers so many topics - animal cruelty, environment, consumption, sexuality, drugs - so somehow it felt really current.”

“People are obsessed with rare and exotic animals, and watching people interact so closely with lions and tigers is amazing. Because it’s completely extraordinary and different from most people’s day to day lives. Because there’s a pandemic and there’s not a lot going on. Because it’s wild and couldn’t make it up unbelievable. Murder plots, multiple marriages and affairs, zoo wars, it’s got a lot going on.”

It’s bizarre nature and immense popularity sparked opportunities for creativity and communication among peers - creating a feeling of being part of a moment together.

“It gave us the best opportunity to make incredible memes. It's basically a content factory disguised as a documentary.”

“There’s probably an element of bandwagon-jumping and all the memes and stuff just generate more interest.”

“I think part of the reason young people are obsessed with these shows is because they - the audience - get to be the jury. Seemingly all the evidence is laid out for them in the show and they can discuss with their friends (the other jurors) their opinion and give the guilty verdict. I think the same was true for making a murderer.”

“It’s a fad. Like one week its Love is Blind, next week it’s Tiger King... I think people hear word of mouth about a TV show and then want to be able to talk about it with their peers.”


Big, outlandish characters are a hit.

“People watch tv for the people and characters they see on it. The tigers and animals are secondary. If you had boring people in charge of the zoos the show would not be a hit.”

“People love voyeurism and getting a glimpse into others peoples lives, especially when they’re different and most especially when these people are perceived as acting authentically. They are being themselves and letting it all out there and while it’s not always flattering it’s all the more compelling for it.”

“People just love to be shocked. And that’s what it was all about. Outrageous behaviour. People see so many things these days and so it has to be something ridiculous that stands out. Also the comedy element of it - it’s a sad story, but you still feel like you can laugh along with it. You’re laughing at the situation that Joe created for himself, rather than laughing at the situation.”

“Eccentricity sells! If Joe Exotic can be that confident, anyone can!”

Weird is wonderful and messy is captivating - especially if it’s real life!

“People are consuming huge amounts of content at an incredible rate. To stand out in any way you need to grab people’s attention immediately and get them to want to talk about the show. It needs to be easy to consume (ie. short episodes/short series/on accessible platforms). I think it’s also an example of a move towards the bizarre and strange. Similar to the huge interest in true crime that is still on the rise, documentaries examining surreal stories that are far removed from the everyday are gaining young people’s interest. It’s escapism with a twist - I think that my generation, who’ve grown up more interested in what’s happening to real people on social media than soap storylines, want their entertainment to be grounded in truth/ reality too.”

“A lot of entertainment today is far from academic. The most popular TV shows are ones that usually have the most gossip, drama and stupidity as they always keep you watching. They may be brain melting but so many teenagers live their lives through watching these shows because to some degree we desperately want to relate with them.”

“I think it shows people are still obsessed with reality shows, which is basically what it is just in a new documentary style form which might make it seem more sophisticated but it is essentially reality TV which has been popular for years.”

“I think the entertainment industry today realizes it has to be bigger, better, and more shocking than ever… Because at this stage everything has been seen before! What gripped people a decade or two ago wouldn't today because between the Internet and change in media something has to almost have a shock factor - even if it's bad or disgusting or awful- if it gets people talking, it’s a winner. The characters were portrayed almost as caricatures of themselves.”

Sparking debate helps drive momentum.

“It's divisive, some believe Carol killed her husband (she did), others don't. It sparks crazy online debate.”


Distractions from COVID-19 are welcome. The best kind of ‘weird’ can’t be faked.

The surreal and weird are good but can’t be faked/mimicked easily. The interest in reality means that younger generations are even more skeptical of brands/companies who are trying to fake something. Authenticity is key. But it’s clear that what younger generations are interested in is people, and stories about people. Brands should be more open in sharing the people behind them, especially on social media. Acknowledge when things go wrong and just be more human.”

The power of authenticity is so important. It’s valuable to recognise the power of having one big personality define a brand (for better or worse), and the power of leaning in to who you are unapologetically.”

Drama from multiple perspectives is gripping.

“I think brands can learn that sometimes the most interesting and intriguing tv shows for our generation tend to be more drama-packed. Getting to see the perspectives of two sides of an argument is cool. In TV shows and documentaries you often don’t get that opportunity as they usually have a protagonist or a specific subject to follow. But with Tiger King you definitely feel a lot more self conflict as you agree with Joe as well as Carole on different subjects.”

From a business and brand standpoint -

“Thoroughly research who you are going into business with!”

“Joe Exotic branded everything to excess, but it really was his character that made his brand.. Joe Exotic being a person helped people buy into it, rather than it being a ‘thing.’ He creates the brand.”

And it’s worth remembering that sometimes...

“People are dumb…”

“Murder and sex still sells.”

See also


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