The Young and the Old

Old TVI’ve just seen some recent statistics that talk about TV viewing in different demographics. On the young side, Verizon just released a study it did of the TV viewing habits of Millennials, which it defined as those between the ages of 16 and 34. On the older side, there have been some interesting statistics released talking about who watches network TV.

Verizon’s study quantifies what we have already all suspected – that the viewing habits of young people are a lot different than the rest of us. This is not to say that everybody’s viewing habits aren’t changing, but the young have changed to a greater degree. For example, all age groups watch over-the-top video online, but Millennials spend three times as much of their viewing time on line as everybody else.

Millennials have not yet abandoned cable services and 75% of them still watch cable TV. Only 13% of Millennials have cut the cord compared to 9% of the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, they are also huge subscribers other services like AmazonPrime, NetFlix and Hulu. They simply have a lower tolerance for linear TV programming and want to watch things on their terms when they are ready to watch it. Millenials also like to browse more than watch specific TV shows at set times. Millennials are more likely (64%) to be using some other viewing device like a tablet, laptop or cell phone than everybody else (49%).

Millennials seem to be very brand-loyal and the brands they like are not the same as everybody else. For example, when naming their top entertainment brands, Millennials don’t put any of the broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX) into their top ten brands while all four make it into the top brands for non-Millennials. Interestingly the company that makes it as the top name brand for everybody is Amazon.

Contrary to what other surveys have found, Millennials are willing to pay for multiple kinds of TV services and they are more likely to subscribe to both cable and online entertainment sources. But in looking at their viewing habits, they are more likely to engage in binge watching and more attuned to when entire series of shows are released on line.

Millennials also get more of their entertainment from non-traditional sources like YouTube and social sites. Millennials are more likely to game and to play fantasy sports than others. They also frequent a number of social sites like Reddit, Imjur, 4chan and 9gag that nobody else uses.

Very much as a compliment to the Verizon survey, I was looking through statistics about who watches network TV. The demographics of the major networks is aging even faster than the population. The median age of viewer for network TV is now 54 while twenty years ago it was 41. In 1993 the number one show was ‘Home Improvement’ with the age of the median watcher at 34. Today the most popular show is ‘NCIS’ with a median age of viewers of 61.

Interestingly, the networks still get the majority of the advertising dollars, but the increasing age of their viewers is probably going to change this a lot. Back in the Verizon survey, only 32% of Millennials said they would even miss the major networks if they went away. Advertisers want to find better ways to get to Millennial and other younger viewers, but the way they watch programming makes it hard to get to them in the same was as they can get to viewers with network TV.

The Verizon survey should give pause to anybody in the cable TV business. The Millennials and the following generations will be the majority of viewers in a few decades and once has to ask if it is possible to have a set of products that they are willing to pay for. They are not afraid to spend money for entertainment, but a lot of that money goes to online sources instead of to the local cable TV.

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