Skip to Main Content

Television Studies

This guide is an introduction to library and internet resources for Television Studies.

Defining audience

A body of individuals watching and/or listening to a show, concert, film, or speech. The cinema audience comprises people who assemble to watch films in cinemas and other venues, both public and private, as well as those who consume films via alternative platforms such as video, DVD, home cinema, and television. Quantitative data on attendances at cinemas and on cinema box-office takings are routinely gathered by the film industry, and in some countries by government bodies as well: data are normally published in the trade press and in government statistics. In film studies, the sociological or cultural notion of the cinema audience is commonly distinguished from the idea of the spectator, where spectatorship is understood as a relationship or engagement with the film text. Since the study of film spectatorship and the study of cinema audiences derive from distinct disciplinary approaches and methodologies, it is helpful to hold to a conceptual distinction between the two terms, spectator and audience.

From its beginnings as a popular mass medium, the putative effects of films on audiences have aroused concern, often expressed as anxieties about the physical and moral health of cinemagoers, particularly the young and the lower classes. In the 1910s, for example, Britain’s National Council of Public Morals set up a Cinema Commission of Inquiry to assess the ‘physical, social, educational and moral influences of the cinema, with special reference to young people’, consulting experts ranging from senior police to local authority medical officers. Such pressure-group instigated investigations are typical of early inquiries into cinema and its audience, in that filmgoers were rarely called upon as witnesses. However, early scholarly ventures into the study of cinema did include some methodologically sophisticated independent research that involved actual audiences: in 1912 and 1913, for example, the sociologist Emilie Altenloh conducted a study of some 2,400 cinemagoers in the German industrial town of Mannheim, using interviews and questionnaires. Between the 1920s and the 1940s, the peak years of mass cinemagoing in many parts of the world, this kind of informant-based audience research by sociologists and social psychologists took place in Britain, the US, and elsewhere. Among the most influential of these are the Payne Fund Studies, conducted in the US between 1928 and 1932 and resulting in eight volumes published between 1933 and 1935 under the series title ‘Motion Pictures and Youth’. Because popularized versions of the findings became caught up in contemporary controversies around the effects of cinema on children and young people, as well as debates and policies on the censorship and regulation of films (see censorship; production code), the Payne Fund Studies’ groundbreaking developments in methods for researching cinema audiences, including the ‘motion picture autobiography’ (see psychology and film; sociology and film), were largely overlooked at the time.  ...

Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2020). Audience. In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 31 May. 2023

Selected book title(s)

Other library resource(s)

Finding articles & journal titles

You can use a variety of sources to find articles about television audiences. One source is the index Film & Television Literature Index. It is a database dedicated to literature about film and television. There is a special issue from the journal Television & New Media on audience analysis.

Ratings Information on the Internet

There are many sites that have viewer ratings for television shows. However, they all get the information from Nielsen Media Research.

Internet resource(s)

Keeping up with Television Studies journal literature

Want an easy way to keep up with the journal literature for all facets of Television Studies? And you use a mobile device? You can install the BrowZine app and create a custom Bookshelf of your favorite journal titles. Then you will get the Table of Contents (ToCs) of your favorite journals automatically delivered to you when they become available. Once you have the ToC's, you can download and read the articles you want from the journals for which we have subscriptions.

You can get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

Don't own or use a mobile device? You can still use BrowZine! It's also available in a web version. You can get to it here. The web version works the same way as the app version. Find the journals you like, create a custom Bookshelf, get ToCs and read the articles you want.