Demographic Changes in TV Consumption

The shift in how consumers consume entertainment content has been top of mind for us from a research perspective for some years. The fundamental questions and behavioral shifts we have been watching are how consumers are shifting time from live TV experiences to more on-demand ones and what technology/devices are they consuming the different types of content with.

Looking specifically at the options consumers have to consume entertainment media, it is interesting to see how different age demographics engage differently with the options presented. See this chart below looking at the different options for consuming TV content and the ones each generation says they choose on a weekly basis (note data is the US only).

As you can see from the chart, TV content, in general, is still heavily consumed. Nearly every age demographic says they consume TV in some form on a weekly basis. This isn’t terribly shocking. But as we look at the differences between live and on-demand things start to get interesting. Baby Boomers still consume most their TV content live. Younger generations consume their TV content mostly from on-demand services. One stand-out data point here is how millennial’s and Gen Z don’t tend to watch much DVR content compared to other age groups. I find this point interesting given the likelihood they grew up with DVR technology in their home. Perhaps a dynamic at play here is the DVR was either the family or their parents DVR. Perhaps even more relevant is the big screen was mostly controlled by their parents leaving then with little options to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it.

This last point is quite profound when you think about what every person in the household now having a smart device like a PC, tablet, or smartphone enabled as it relates to TV content. When TV content was exclusive to the big screen, there was likely a fight in the home when one person wanted to watch one thing, but others did not. How you found time to watch the show you wanted to watch that no one else wanted to was a problem. Now that everyone in the house can watch whatever they want, when they want, on their personal TV screen (PC, tablet, smartphone) the addressable market for content went up. Unbundling TV content from the TV screen to the smart screen only benefits media content and has given vastly more options to consumers on when and how they consume the media they want.

The younger demographic seems to be benefitting the most from TV on your time strategies since getting their TV screen via their smart device. Interestingly, this begs the question as to whether this demographic will still want/own a big screen TV when they have their place someday.

Which brings me to some data on the types of devices used to consume different kinds of TV. When it comes to the big screen TV, 90% of baby boomers use this device as their primary way to consume TV content. 78% of Gen X use the big screen as their main TV consumption device, but less than 55% of millennial’s and Gen Z say the big screen TV is their primary screen for TV. The big difference in screen preferences happens the most with younger generations who primarily state the smartphone or PC is their primary screen for watching all forms of TV (live, catch up TV via network app, streaming service like Netflix/YouTube).

From all the research I’ve been sifting through, it seems apparent the younger generation spends most their time watching most their TV content on their personal screens vs. the big shared screen in the living/family room and older demographics still prefer the big screen. Content is shifting to more on-demand consumption methods, just more slowly with the older demographics. As more content owners embrace on-demand solutions either through their apps or by empowering new service providers like Hulu, Sling, Playstation View, YouTubeTV, and even new entrants not yet in the market, it seems the path to unbundle TV services from the monopoly players like Comcast, Dish, DirecTV, etc., is creeping ever closer.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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