Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland and rheingold institute take a close look at the cultural upheaval around video usage in Germany


The cultural transformation in the way moving images are used in Germany began with Video-on-Demand. The ‘new’ video providers on the market have accomplished something that a few years ago was practically unimaginable in Germany: a willingness to pay to escape everyday life. On behalf of Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, the Cologne-based market research institute rheingold conducted a study of moving images to determine how and when moving images are consumed, what users expect, and what motivates them.

Moving images in transformation

Stephan Grünewald, Managing Partner at rheingold institute, summarised the key finding of the study of moving images, ‘Moving images in transformation’, as follows: ‘Accessible and available at all times, with full control – that is what everyday life in our society looks like. The media differ primarily in terms of their everyday relevance. Television supports people’s everyday logic, structures the day and confronts us with the events of the world out there. As a “media-based pharmacy of feelings”, television presents mood offerings that suit the time of day and establishes an event platform for community feelings. While television keeps returning us to everyday life, Video-on-Demand serves a daydream logic. Usage occurs in a situation of withdrawal. The viewer enters a dream bubble and escapes everyday life. Regardless of the motivation for using moving images – the fact is: moving images nudge creative processes and promote engagement with one’s own life or the world out there.’

Moving images are plentiful, but in addition to the everyday mover of TV and the dream factory of cinema, Video-on-Demand is gaining popularity as a daydream factory that is available at all times. When considering the usage motivation, it is just as important to set the motivation for using moving images in the proper context. Even if streaming services are considered to be very modern, self-determined and free, Video-on-Demand is no match for the usage times and net reach of TV.

What accounts for the positive assessment is the feeling of being able to choose for oneself from an ‘infinite’ supply of content – including the end point on which it is used. Users experience themselves as members of the media avant-garde and take pride in their binge-watching successes. What they conceal, however, is the fact that they essentially shut themselves down for many hours at a time, addictively diving into parallel worlds that promise them the kind of enhanced adventure once reserved for personal daydreaming.

This pronounced usage captures viewers in a dream bubble, fully concentrated and free from all distraction, typically alone and thus ‘lost in the stream’, so to speak. So while Video-on-Demand is an entertaining, attractive, self-determined fortress, it offers few incentives for one’s own way of life, and few topics for conversation, as divulging plots is an absolute ‘no-go’.

TV provide anchors in reality

The expectations of television are entirely different. Television is supposed to provide encouragement and entertainment in a relaxed way. Users can simply switch the television on and allow themselves to be ‘sprinkled’ without necessarily slipping off into a dream bubble, as TV provides reality anchors that viewers expect and appreciate. Through advertising on the one hand and programming on the other: news, talk shows, shows offering practical tips or reality formats – they all provide the viewer with the entire canon of life, and a linkage to their everyday lives is never far away. In contrast to usage of Video-on-Demand, which is usually targeted and homogeneous manner, the linear world of television has a thing or two in store to discover – things that do not necessarily correspond to one’s own typical viewing habits, and that direct the gaze to new and unknown things. At the same time, the relationship to reality ensures order and structure.

Fixed time slots and channels give users orientation and provide endpoints. Stories are told through to the end, and the viewer is returned to reality. At the same time, the linearity of television also creates societal events – large-scale happenings in particular provide common themes. The in-depth partnership between viewers and television plays a role, too. While Video-on-Demand lacks an identity, as it were, linear television is associated with the faces and brands of the different stations or with one’s favourite format. This creates identity and a feeling of an interlocutor, a partner.

Viewers are no longer simply viewers and consumers

‘We are constantly looking at developments in the video market for our own sake. There are more and more offers and providers, and this fact has changed not just the market but media usage altogether. Viewers are no longer just viewers and consumers; now they are actors with clear expectations,’ said Thomas Kreyes, a member of the management at Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland.

‘The rheingold study makes this expectation very clear: for all our love for streaming, TV is the window to the world, with all its diversity and a linkage to everyday life. Advertising plays an important role here, because the spots create everyday connections that bring the viewer back to everyday life and reality.

An obviously indispensable USP. It’s no accident that TV achieves a net reach of 94 percent within three days, whereas streaming services attain 15 percent.’

The design of the study of moving images

For this study of moving images, in March and April 2018, rheingold institute surveyed a total of 110 people who are users of both TV and Video-on-Demand. Respondents were divided up into two target groups: 19- to 25-year-olds and 34- to 49-year-olds. The data were collected in two stages: approximately 50 users of moving images were interviewed in qualitative individual interviews, and 60 more in two rheingoldArenas (group discussions). Eight to ten users of moving images were interviewed on location for the discussion sessions, along with another 20 online guests whose written contributions were incorporated into the discussion.

The rheingold expert

Nicole Hanisch

Nicole Hanisch


Nicole Hanisch, a certified psychologist, is a member of the rheingold management and has been successfully working for the institute for several years. Her research interests are in the areas of trade and food & beverages. Tel .: +49 221-912 777-11 E-Mail: hanisch@rheingold-online.de