This master thesis is dedicated to the YouTube audience’s discussions of the English-speaking business reality television shows Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank. Intersecting strategic start-up communication and entertainment research, a literature review unveiled knowledge gaps related to customer relations of startups and the audience of these shows. To approach the strategic advantage of addressing customers by televisual presence, the partially rivaling communication intentions of show producers and entrepreneurs were conceptualized as two media frames in the vein of sociological emphasis framing, prone to become audience frames during exposure. After exploring the audience discussion topics (RQ1), the extent to which these topics constitute sub-frames of either main frame (RQ2a, RQ2b) or of further aspects (RQ2c) were examined to conclude which main frame is more prevalent (RQ3).
The quantitative, yet exploratory research design was automated by the statistical computing language R. Exploiting that various shows had been republished on five official YouTube channels, 453,024 comments of 868 videos depicting the pitch presentations and/or negotiations were retrieved via the YouTube Data API V3 in November 2020. After extensive data pre-processing, 200 topics in the left 313,760 comment threads with 2,434,491 words (3,792 tokens) were modeled with biterm topic modeling, from which the 18 most prevalent ones were interpreted in the light of the developed frames. While five topics formed two sub-frames of the strategic communication frame, eleven topics merged in three sub-frames of the factual entertainment frame. The latter main frame combining more topics and sub-frames with higher prevalence suggested the approach to show participants as entertainers rather. The exploratory insights suggest rather detrimental effects of show participation on building customer relations, but require more reliable, intersubjective validation. Also, relations to specific industries and product types depicted in the videos would probably yield more applicable best practices for strategic start-up communication.