Are you a Sofa Blogger or a Couch Coach


Over 65 per cent of Brits are so eager to watch their favourite TV programmes that they don’t go to the loo while they are on

BT reveals the physical and emotional impact of unmissable TV

Over 65 per cent of Brits are so eager to watch their favourite TV programmes that they don’t go to the loo while they are on, according to new research released today by BT*. Meanwhile, one in five avoid eating while their top shows are on.

With the winter nights drawing in and Christmas films on the way, BT has teamed up with experts at Bournemouth University to take a closer look at how people react when watching their favourite television programmes.

Viewers were asked to watch two episodes from each of the following shows and their emotional and physical reactions were monitored, in the detailed study carried out by Bournemouth University.

  • Comedy: Arrested Development
  • Kids’: All Hail King Julien
  • Drama: Orange is the New Black
  • Horror: American Horror Story
  • Thriller: House of Cards

Leading body language expert, Judi James, then analysed the findings and created six viewing typologies: The Sofa Butterfly, The Slogger, The Sofa Showman, The Episode Evangelist, The Screens Guard and The Couch Coach.

The Sofa Butterfly: Someone who opts for live home viewing, normally with company. The Sofa Butterfly tends to discuss the programme’s detail over the following few days with friends and colleagues.

The Slogger: The social media sofa blogger has an addiction to sharing their thoughts and critiquing what they are watching with the social media world – which can sometimes be more important to them than the show itself.

  • Six out of the eight viewers sat with their phone by their side (within arms-reach)
  • The highest reach recorded on Twitter was from the final episode of Breaking Bad - 9.1 million*

The Sofa Showman: The active viewer who becomes so immersed in what they are watching that it is a form of escapism for them.

  • When watching television, 86 per cent of viewers directly express their emotions through their behaviour
  • One in 10 grab a cushion when watching something scary and over a quarter cover their face
  • 60 per cent throw their head back when laughing
  • Three in five become tearful

The Episode Evangelist: The viewer who feels its important to be first. They like watching their favourite programmes live rather than on catch-up so they can discuss them with their friends at the earliest opportunity.

  • 80 per cent of the respondents list TV as an important part of their lives

The Screens Guard: The emotionally contained viewer who portrays the British stiff upper lip. Either due to family television etiquette or being image conscious, they do not allow their emotions to spill out.

  • A quarter of respondents say they would not display emotion at all when viewing with others
  • But, when viewing alone, only 14 per cent would hold back their emotions

The Couch Coach: This behaviour used to be exclusive to sports fans, unable to sit still while their teams were on the pitch. However, current shows seem to have the same effect.

  • A third of viewers lean closer to the TV and shout at it, or sit on the edge of their seat during exciting moments

Judi James, body language expert, says: “Whether you’re a Sofa Butterfly, an Episode Evangelist or a Couch Coach, the study shows that even in this modern age of technology, television represents camaraderie. It is still a popular way of uniting families, friends and in some cases, total strangers.

“What I also found of interest is that this study looked at ‘how’ people were watching TV. Each of the respondents regularly took on one or more of the ‘typologies’ as their moods and reactions changed while they watched different programme genres.”

Riccardo Balestiero, Commercial Director BT TV, says: “We know a huge amount about people’s viewing habits in terms of what they choose but very little research has been done into how people watch TV.

“The small screen is currently enjoying a new wave of popularity, in no small part due to the quality of sport in ultra high definition and hugely popular TV drama series such as Fear the Walking Dead on AMC from BT. We wanted to learn more about all the ways viewers respond physically and emotionally to their favourite shows and to see if there was any correlation between different genres.”

Professor Siné McDougall, Department of Psychology, Bournemouth University, says: “With friends, families and flatmates across the UK watching an average of four hours of TV every day, it is not surprising that we are captivated by how others watch, who they watch with, and how they react to their favourite programmes.

“What is clear, is that TV watching is embedded in our lives. Moments of intense engagement and enjoyment form snapshots of our experience – to which we return again and again, depending on our mood.”



Notes to editors

Judi James; full typology description:

The Sofa Butterfly: These viewers are watching in a traditional, group-share way, allowing their thoughts and emotions to synchronise with family and strangers in the wider viewing public to mimic the style of social bonding that creates secure packs in animals. The Social Butterfly’s style has been re-booted via the popularity of the show Gogglebox where family groups are shown bonding via their sofa TV behaviours. When we share our enjoyment like this we can not only get feelings of security but can also create mild euphoria, especially when the programmes being watched are dramatic or exciting enough to create adrenalin. This means watching something like the finale of Great British Bake-Off or Strictly in a huge nation-wide ‘group’ can create as big a hit as standing in a crowd at a football match or rock concert.

These viewers gain prolonged pleasure too. It’s not just watching the show live that makes them happy, it’s the ‘water-cooler’ moments over the following few days when they can discuss what they have seen with friends and colleagues at work.

The Slogger: The Sofa Blogger is the social media version of the Sofa Butterfly although instead of immersing themselves in the viewing experience, before sharing their thoughts to the wider world the following day, they are creating an overlap, suggesting an instant gratification personality where the urgency to be the first to critique and comment on a show can be more important that the actual pleasure of watching it. There’s a dodgy balance between quietly enjoying a show by immersing yourself in it and editing your thoughts to share via the Internet.Although the Slogger’s behaviour might feel as though it’s enhancing the pleasure it will also dilute it by preventing the kind of undivided attention that some shows need. Which is probably why the Slogger will be happiest combining social media with shows like reality TV that provide shocks and highs but without making too many demands on the intellect.

The Sofa Showman: This form of active rather than passive viewing probably evolves from behaviours we use as children where we mimic our heroes like TV characters. It’s called changing your state of mind and in adults like The Sofa Showman it’s a form of escapism via sharing the emotions and actions on screen. It’s a quirk of the brain where something that we know to be unreal still produces an empathetic response in us. Who hasn’t cried at Bambi or been genuinely terrified by a horror movie even though we know it’s not real?

The Episode Evangelist: It’s always interesting how, despite our ability to ‘control’ our TV watching habits via iPlayer and catch-up some people can still feel driven to watch when and how the TV demands rather than the other way round. Episode Evangelists are probably enjoying the feelings of ‘security’ produced when allowing the TV to take over a large parts of their lives. Their behaviour could border on the obsessive, with feelings of mild panic if they are forced to miss a bit of the drama. These people are rule-followers rather than rule-breakers and their trait of allowing the TV to take over can mean their day is spent in chaos with family, social or workplace demands and they enjoy switching off from their lives to watch their favourite programmes.

The Screens Guard: This is passive social viewing where responses are repressed as the Screens Guard becomes what is probably felt to be a politely silent and immobile member of the TV audience. Most families have their own viewing etiquette where kids are taught to keep quiet while mum or dad watch their favourite show and we can take those behaviours through into adulthood, showing respect for the TV itself as well as for the people we are viewing with. There can also be feelings of embarrassment about showing emotions during a TV programme. Some people hate being seen as a ‘softie’ especially where their normal image is a bit macho, meaning they can spend entire programmes in denial, battling tears or signs of fear. These Screens Guard people are the ideal target for drama shows that like to shock the viewer. Game of Thrones was one of the best examples of a show that revelled in its ability to make The Screens Guard react uncontrollably. On the surface the show had plenty of ‘nerd-appeal’ with its fantasy themes but it also excelled in creating super-shock moments that tore up the plot rule-book to enable them to make anyone’s draw literally drop. The popularity of the show created a trend for shock-plots but these will sadly become harder and harder to achieve now the genre is known about and expected.

Couch Coach: This behaviour used to be exclusive to sports fans who would be unable to sit still while their teams were on the pitch and who would even mimic the celebratory displays of the players if and when a goal was scored, punching the air or even running round the living room with their jumper pulled up over their head. This means the anticipation and adrenalin burst has almost removed the sense of location to the point where they are on the pitch or in the stands rather than sitting on the sofa in their own home. Modern TV shows often manage to reproduce that same reaction though, even when they aren’t sport-based. Shows like X Factor or even Jeremy Kyle specialise in getting audience participation that will spread right out into the living room so that when Simon Cowell turns to the audience behind him to help him decide which acts to keep its likely people at home will also be up out of their seats shouting too. It makes us feel like an active part of winning, meaning our body language behaviours

A sample of eight respondents took part in detailed case studies carried out by Bournemouth University. They were asked to watch two episodes from each of the following shows:

  • Comedy: Arrested Development
  • Kids’: All Hail King Julien
  • Drama: Orange is the New Black
  • Horror: American Horror Story
  • Thriller: House of Cards

    Participants watched the first two episodes from Series 1 for each programme. While watching the following measures were obtained:

    (i) Participants were asked to complete a prompted diary, which asked specific questions about key events in each episode. This allowed us to make systematic comparisons across respondents.

    (ii) Participants’ heartbeat was monitored, as a physiological index of emotion, while viewing.

    (iii) Participants were asked to rate their engagement with the programme, what they did while watching, and how they sat while viewing.

    (iv) Respondents were also filmed for two hours of their viewing time and stills were obtained from the video of their viewing behaviour.

* A supporting survey of 500 adults aged 18+ that watch TV was also conducted by Bournemouth University, to extend the research findings.

All research was conducted in August 2015.

The research was analysed by Leading body language expert, Judi James during October 2015.