Behaviour change on climate can be driven by TV, says Sky

Monday 1 November 2021

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  • Sky calls for new era of collaboration amongst broadcasters to help consumers to decarbonise their lifestyles through on-air content
  • Research from Sky and the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) across six European countries reveals 7 in 10 consumers are willing to change their behaviour
  • Report shows that TV has power to encourage consumers to decarbonise with 1 in 3 having changed their lifestyle because of content seen on TV

Seventy per cent of people across Europe are willing to change their behaviour to address the climate crisis according to research published today by Sky and the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT).

Using behavioural science techniques, Sky and BIT set out ten new behavioural science principles to guide broadcasters on helping their viewers to take action. The study develops a clear role for content creators and broadcasters to inspire green behaviours from their viewers, as well as revealing data on consumer attitudes to climate change.

It comes at a critical time as experts now widely accept that we must shift the behaviour of millions of people to deliver on our collective net zero goals.

The report, “The power of TV: nudging viewers to decarbonise their lifestyles”, is launched at the United Nations’ 26th Climate Conference in Glasgow by Dana Strong, Sky Group CEO, Professor David Halpern, BIT, and Mark Strong, actor and Executive Producer of Sky's Temple.

Speaking at COP26 in Glasgow today, Dana Strong, Group Chief Executive, Sky, said:

“At Sky we have set out our pathway to achieve net zero carbon, but we know this alone will not be enough. Through the content that we bring into our customers’ homes we believe broadcasters have a clear role and responsibility to encourage lifestyle changes that address the climate crisis. We’re publishing these research results in full as an open tool for content creators and broadcasters. This means that for the first time we have empirical evidence demonstrating how the creative industries can work together to deliver the behaviour change required to meet our net zero ambitions.”

Over 3,500 participants were interviewed in the report from the six countries in Europe where Sky operates. Of those polled, 70% state that they are worried about the environment and the same proportion (7 in 10) state they are willing to make lifestyle changes in order to tackle the climate crisis.

However, many respondents also said they are overwhelmed by choice and their understanding of how to make lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon impact is low. Only 16% knew what they needed to do to act sustainably, while just 2 in 10 people said they know how to recycle or save energy at home.

The study also found 80% of people across Europe support the idea of broadcasters using content and advertising to encourage people to adopt more environmentally positive behaviours. Of those asked, 3 in 4 survey participants support TV broadcasters ‘nudging’ viewers to think about the environment, whether that’s through documentaries, advertising or increasing the coverage of environmental issues in the news.

David Halpern, CEO, Behavioural Insights Team, said: “Broadcasters like Sky have a unique role in fostering behaviour changes that are essential to tackle climate change. Our new report finds not only that people’s behaviours and attitudes are significantly shaped by the media they consume, but also that viewers expect and encourage broadcasters to do more to educate and inspire viewers to do their bit for the environment. We hope this report will provide broadcasters with actionable and evidence-based insights on how they can do their bit to avert the climate crisis.”

Mark Strong, actor and Executive Producer of Sky's Temple, spoke at COP26 and said: "Television has always had the power to change opinions and effect real world change in a meaningful way. That's why, more than ever, Drama creators now need to put climate crisis storytelling front and centre in their work. To get across these crucial messages, it's important that storytellers create natural, organic plots which depict the real-world impacts of the climate crisis on character's lives - and showcases actions which we all can take. I feel proud that our show, Temple, has tried to do this by including climate activism as a central storyline in the new series."

The study includes a set of behavioural science principles created by BIT to inform broadcasters and content creators in how to nudge their viewers to take action. Based on the findings of the research and using behavioural science tools, they conclude that:

  • To address the lack of critical knowledge on what actions to take to address climate change, broadcasters and content creators should put climate-friendly actions by real people centre stage in all areas of TV content according to BIT. Portrayals of real people are most likely to inspire audiences to change their behaviour according to BIT (41%) followed by activists (33%), and charities (32%). This ‘social modelling’ of lifestyle changes from characters and people that TV viewers can associate themselves with carries evidence of having high impact on viewer behaviour. ‘Crucially, this type of content should provide people with information on what to do to change their lifestyle as well as showing them how to do so.
  • Evidence from BIT also suggests that broadcasters and content creators should encourage positive environmental behaviours amongst children because of the important influence they have on the attitudes and behaviours of their parents.
  • However, broadcasters and content creators should avoid creating TV content that is fear-mongering, blaming, and preaching to TV audiences. This type of content was proven to be counter-productive and BIT conclude that it can reduce consumers’ willingness to make changes in their lifestyles.

Carys Taylor, Director of albert, the screen industry organisation for environmental sustainability, said: “It’s great that Sky is publishing its findings and sharing with the wider creative community, which in turn can benefit audiences internationally. The screen industries have an enormous opportunity to support efforts to tackle climate change, not only by addressing their own impacts, but through engaging audiences with tangible solutions and enabling them to participate in the transition to a sustainable future. Through its editorial work, albert has been delivering tools and resources to help empower production and creative teams in TV and film to do just that.”

Download the full report here

Notes to Editors

Sky is the Principal Partner and Media Partner for the COP26 summit and has committed to defining new standards for the broadcast industry, and to invest in evidence to better inform the industry’s approach to sustainable broadcast and content production.

Read more about Sky’s net zero carbon commitments here: www.skygroup.sky/sky-zero

For further information, please contact: david.chaplin@sky.uk or sian.parry@sky.uk

About Sky

Sky is Europe’s leading media and entertainment company and is proud to be part of Comcast Corporation. Across six countries, we connect our 23 million customers to the best entertainment, sports, news, arts and to our own award-winning original content. 

Following the launch of Sky Glass, we now offer customers our strongest ever line-up of products and services. As well as the new streaming TV with Sky inside and everything integrated, customers can enjoy the award-winning Sky Q with all your favourite channels and apps in one place, and with Sky Go you can now access an even better experience on your devices. Sky TV has new channels, new shows and new deals with Peacock, Paramount+ and more. Sky Mobile was voted Best Pay Monthly and Best Value Pay Monthly network by Uswitch, and with Sky Broadband we’re offering our fastest speeds yet.

Building on the success of Sky Originals like Chernobyl, Gangs of London and Brassic, we are doubling our investment in original content by 2024 through Sky Studios. Our new TV and movie studio, Sky Studios Elstree, is expected to create over 2,000 new jobs and generate an additional £3 billion of production investment in the UK over the first five years alone. Sky News provides impartial and trustworthy journalism for free, Sky Arts is the UK’s only dedicated free-to-air arts channel making the arts accessible for everyone and Sky Sports, our leading sports broadcasting service, brings customers some of the biggest and best global sporting events from the Premier League to Formula 1 and everything in-between. Sky Cinema is the home of Sky Original films with brand new films launching every month alongside an unrivalled range of the latest cinema releases and on demand library.

We believe that we can be a force for good in the communities in which we operate. We’re committed to being Europe’s first net zero carbon entertainment company by 2030 and we’re proud to be a Principal Partner and Media Partner of COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference. We take pride in our approach to diversity and inclusion: we’ve been recognised by The Times and Stonewall for our commitment to diversity, and we’ve set ambitious 2025 targets to continue to increase diversity and representation.  We’re also committed to investing £30million across our markets over the next three years to improve our approach to diversity and inclusion, and to tackle racial injustice.

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