Très Populaire? To That I Say, ‘Non!’

French TV viewers appear to prize individualité, not fraternité, when they’re in front of the tube.

Genevieve Bell, an Intel fellow who directs the chip maker’s “user experience” research group, has spent the last few years surveying the way people watch and interact with their TVs and other digital devices. The Australian-born anthropologist and her team at Intel have visited some 700 households in 25 countries.

Some of Intel’s findings, which the company has used as part of developing its line of microprocessors for TVs, set-tops and other gadgets, are not what you would call startling. 

For example, according to Bell, the consistent No. 1 complaint of TV viewers for the last 10 years around the globe has been frustration in dealing with multiple remote controls. (One guy in Japan had six on his coffee table.)

But there were outliers. In France, Neuf Cegetel’s TV service provides an interactive menu showing the most popular shows. But the viewers Bell observed far more frequently tapped the list of the least popular shows: “It was this attitude of wanting to watch what nobody else was watching,” she said.

Is this contrarianism peculiarly Gallic? Bell wasn’t sure, but, she added: “We haven’t noticed it anywhere else.”