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Millennials and Gen Z Abandon Live TV in Staggering Numbers

Jeff Kotuby

Another day, another report of millennials and Gen Z killing something — this time it’s TV as we’ve always known it.

New Nielsen data shows that adults aged 18-34 are tuning out of live TV, averaging just 452 minutes of live TV per week (about an hour and five minutes per day.) This is a 23 percent drop compared to last year, and even larger when compared to data from 3-5 years ago. In comparison, 65+ viewers are watching over 40 hours of live TV per week, or about 5 hours per day.

This isn’t just affecting scripted series and reality shows, either. Sports are taking this change in viewership habits on the nose, as it’s forced leagues to rapidly change their rights deals to account more for streaming. Data has consistently backed the notion that younger viewers are cutting back on TV sporting events, opting to watch only the end of games or highlights instead. Though the difference in consumption hasn’t changed fan engagement, major sports leagues will still have to address streaming in their future rights deals, just as the NCAA, National Football League, and National Hockey League have done.

The 2021 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament saw massive streaming numbers compared to 2019. streaming hours for the 2021 tourney increased by 75.4 percent compared to 2019’s figures, while the March Madness Live app was among the most-downloaded apps during the tournament’s opening week. March Madness Live allowed viewers to watch tournament games right from their web browsers or mobile devices and offered ancillary streams to catch viewers up on previously-seen action or bounce around to multiple games going on at once.

The NFL and NHL both signed massive deals within the past few months that gave them a heavy streaming presence. Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, ESPN+, and Paramount+ will all stream NFL games in some capacity, while ESPN+ will house many of the NHL’s primetime tilts starting in the 2021-22 season.

Nielsen’s figures also show that while traditional cable TV is losing its grip on audiences, TV itself isn’t really going anywhere. 10.8 percent of surveyed TV watchers said they consumed television through a broadband-only service, much like the ones Sling and fuboTV provide. This is up from 5.2 percent of viewers from just 4 years ago.

While we shouldn’t get ready to bury traditional TV just yet, maybe it’s a good idea to think about putting it in a home. At the very least, maybe we should consider cleaning out its basement?

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