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New data proves we’re more likely to watch shows with characters people hate

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Looking at you, Ramsay Bolton

ramsay bolton

The term "hate-reading" has been around for a while and generally refers to when people click on a link to an article that’s being shared on social media platforms with an air of shocked incredulity or just outright disgust. The reason is simple: we have a basic human interest in checking out what’s making people so angry.

Now, according to a new study from research group Canvs, people are taking that type of curiosity and applying it to their television viewing habits. Canvs studied almost 6,000 episodes of series that had recently aired across a variety of genres and cross-referenced both Nielsen ratings and social media commentary on those specific ones. What the study found, most interestingly, was that when it came to dramas, people who tweeted about a character, show or arc they hated were twice as likely to tune into the next episode than people who tweeted about how much they loved any of those aspects.

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Case in point, Ramsay Bolton and Game of ThronesGame of Thrones had one of its most popular seasons ever, according to the ratings, and based on data from Canvs, many of those people were tuning in because they hated quite a few of the characters, including the despicable Ramsay Bolton. Canvs founder and CEO, Jared Feldman, told Variety that while most networks want to stay away from the word "hate" or anything to do with that negative connotation, it actually helps drive viewership, and in turn, ratings. This, of course, means that hate indirectly helps when it comes to networks trying to sell ad spots based on ratings.

The study found that hate-watching saw a major increase in viewership for two specific genres — drama and reality. Feldman used E!’s popular Keeping Up with the Kardashians as an example of another show people were tuning into because of their hatred for the series’ stars. When it came to other genres, like comedies, Canvs discovered that people were more likely to tune into a series based on how much people loved the characters instead of basing it on how funny the actual show was itself.

The only issue with the study is that Canvs couldn’t take into account original series on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon because none of the companies adhere by Nielsen ratings. So shows with popular villains or antagonistic characters, like Orange is the New Black or House of Cards, couldn’t be included.

Game of Thrones recently concluded its sixth season, with one of the most powerful finales yet. The seventh season, which will be shorter than the standard 10 episodes, will air next spring.