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Report: Gen Z, Millennials Drive Shift Away from Linear TV; But Remain Difficult for Streamers to Keep Engaged

Sydney Jochum, Matt Tamanini

While viewers continue to shift away from linear TV, how consumers engage with television is changing at a rate never before seen in the industry. According to Samba TV’s State of Viewership Report, linear TV household reach and minutes viewed are both down significantly from last year, and the declines only get larger the younger the viewer is.

Audiences above the age of 65 watch 20% more linear TV in comparison to the average consumer, while viewers in the 55-64 age group watch just 10% more. Meanwhile, Millennials (ages 25-34 according to Samba TV’s breakdown) continue to show substantially less linear TV consumption.

In fact, Millennials under the age of 35 watched nearly 25% less linear TV per week than households over age 35. This decline in linear viewership is most likely due to the demographic’s willingness to adapt their viewing habits; while older viewers remain tethered to traditional, linear TV options, younger consumers are rapidly switching to over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix and Hulu.

“For advertisers and content owners looking to reach the in-demand Millennial and Gen Z audience,” Samba TV’s CEO and co-founder Ashwin Navin said, “the data paints a clear picture of where they are not spending their time — and that is on traditional TV. And those who do watch traditional TV, time spent is dwindling on average.”

Samba TV’s report indicates that the younger the viewer is, the more likely they are to abandon traditional TV altogether, further emphasizing the point that while broadcast and cable are still an important component of many consumer’s viewing habits, that percentage will assuredly continue to decline as streaming adoption rises and younger audiences start making even more entertainment purchasing decisions.

Not only are Gen Z and Millennial audiences more comfortable with the technological differences between traditional and streaming TV, they also are often more cost-conscious, leading many younger consumers to be open to ad-supported subscription services and linear streaming via free ad-supported TV streaming channels.

“Our data demonstrates that we are approaching a future where all content will be streamed and where most audiences will spend most of their time on streaming platforms even if they have access to traditional pay TV,” Navin said. “This is yet another reason why advertisers are anxiously awaiting the ad-supported models from streaming giants like Disney+ and Netflix that will be rolling out in the coming months.”

Despite the growing adoption and popularity of streaming within younger demographics, services still struggle to maintain the level of engagement that younger viewers can bring. When “Euphoria” — the popular high school-set drama — aired its second season in the first two months of 2022, it quickly became HBO Max’s most streamed show in February.

However, after ending the season on Feb. 27, it stayed the streamer’s top title in March, beginning a decline in top-show viewership that the service has not been able to reverse through June.

Though HBO Max was buoyed by the youth-skewing series early in the year, by not having enough follow-up content to satisfy that more fickle segment of the viewing population, the service has seen its most popular monthly series dip under 2 million monthly views in each of the four months since.

Samba TV’s quarterly data provides an important insight into how young viewers are consuming television in 2022. While they are increasingly non-existent on linear TV, it is clear that even streaming services need to adapt their delivery and programming methods in order to attract and retain the generations that will shape the future of the individual platforms and the industry as a whole.

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