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Keuschnigg, Marc; Wimmer, Thomas (2017): Is Category Spanning Truly Disadvantageous? New Evidence from Primary and Secondary Movie Markets. In: Social forces, Vol. 96, No. 1: pp. 449-479
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Abstract

Genre assignments help audiences make sense of new releases. Studies from a wide range of market contexts have shown that generalists defying clear mapping to established categories suffer penalties in market legitimacy, perceived quality, or audience attention. We introduce an empirical strategy to disentangle two mechanisms, reduced niche fitness and audience confusion, causing devaluation or ignorance of boundary-crossing offers. Our data on 2,971 feature films released to US theaters and subsequently made available on DVD further reveal that consequences of category spanning are subject to strong moderating influences. Negative effects are far from universal, manifesting only if (a) combined genres are culturally distant, (b) products are released to a stable and highly institutionalized market context, and (c) offers lack familiarity as an alternative source of market recognition. Our study provides ramifications as to the scope conditions of categorization effects and modifies some widely acknowledged truisms regarding boundary crossing in cultural markets.