Facial Coding Media Analytics Entertainment Content Testing

The Power of Emotional Engagement: Entertainment Content Testing with Affectiva's Facial Expression Analysis


entertainment content testing

When it comes to entertainment content, creators are tasked with the mission to build an emotionally engaging narrative – designing intricate universes, constructing characters with complex and relatable storylines, and introducing interesting plotlines – that can potentially transcend generations (especially as we see more reboots, spinoffs and sequels coming out!)

Enter stage right: Affectiva’s facial expression analysis enables a strong understanding of people’s moment-by-moment cognitive and emotional journey throughout the entertainment content.  Check out our latest eBook Behind the Screen: How to Boost Entertainment Success by Measuring Emotions, where we go into detail about just how powerful great content can be, tips and tricks to keep in mind when creating successful entertainment content, and case studies that showcase the power of facial coding insights.

Understanding emotionality across genres 

In our previous blog, we talked about the impact of having a strong, positive emotional connection and the calculated Box Office ROI.  So how about negative emotions in content?  Does negative automatically equal bad?

The answer is that it often depends on two factors: first, the type of content that is being tested and second, the underlying objective of that content.  With entertainment content, our research shows which emotional responses tend to be predominant for the most successful film and trailer genres.  For example, Brow Furrow (tension and concentration), Fear and Anger are more likely to be seen in top performing Suspense and Horror films.  Whereas, surprise (via brow raise), fear, and smiles are the key emotions evoked for success in the Action and Adventure category. 

entertainment content testing

So, while perhaps having a comedy film with overwhelming amounts of sadness and anger may be not so great, seeing these signals contributing to the emotional journey in a suspense film can be a “positive” sign. Therefore, it’s always important to keep in mind the objectives of the intended genre, tone and pacing of the content when understanding the viewer’s emotional journey. Negative emotions work well in the right circumstances, though generally (but not always) we want these to be resolved and leave viewers feeling more positive at the end.  

Building a strong foundation for success (beyond the box office) 

In the 87K+ videos that we have tested with our facial coding technology, we have been able to explore a wide range of themes and types of content.  Our video testing solution has been used to assess ads, trailers, TV episodes, edits of a short film and testing full length films in venue.  This has created a robust database which facilitates meta-analyses across a wide range of topics, including comparing what drives success of Oscar Best Picture nominees versus Box Office Blockbusters (2023 and 2024 entries here).   

In thinking about the future and moving beyond theatrical trailers and films, Affectiva’s entertainment content testing can also provide incremental insights towards digital and streaming content.  Using facial coding, researchers can identify moment-by-moment emotional highs and lows, examine different edits to see which one is most engaging, and analyze how viewers respond to various characters and elements.  And as more content becomes available exclusively via streaming or people stick to viewing content on platforms, we see possibilities to take our research to the next level by correlating our emotional metrics with streaming measures (e.g., views or downloads) to find even more impactful insights.  


Facial coding and understanding emotional engagement are one piece of the larger puzzle of viewer behavior.  By utilizing facial coding’s scalable technology, the insights inform what the audience’s cognitive and emotional journey looks like and their connectedness to the storyline, character development and cinematography.  Our technology serves as a complement to the currencies used in the entertainment space to determine whether a show or film will succeed upon time of release and how both the viewing experience and marketability can be optimized. 

Now before we exit stage left, check out more our blog for more posts like these and see how facial expression analysis can enhance insights for entertainment content.  

Emotional content testing


Facial Coding Media Analytics Entertainment Content Testing