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Younger Generations Stream YouTube, TikTok More than Traditional Video; Streamers Are Looking to Capitalize on Smart TVs

Jessica Lerner, Matt Tamanini

A lot has been made about the streaming wars, but does the younger population even care? While most discussions around streaming video focus on the various subscription or free video services created by major media conglomerates, the true rising stars of the streaming video industry are user-generated, social media video platforms.

Gen Z — born roughly between born 1997 to 2013 — embraces more lean-in and lean-through behaviors when consuming content, such as commenting on videos or producing their own content. This stands in stark contrast with older generations who are more likely to lean back and simply watch the content in front of them. While the younger generation still does not have the purchasing power of their fully adult counterparts, developing engagement habits from consumers aged 16 to 34 is essential for the long-term viability of any platform in the fiercely competitive social media and video streaming markets.

Currently, more than half of people between the ages 16 and 34 watch video content — social media, TV, movies, etc. — on their smartphones, a tendency that decreases as people age, according to a new report from MiDia research. Conversely, more than three-quarters of consumers 45 or older watch those same styles of video on their TV, with those percentages decreasing as the demographics get younger.

Despite the rise of smartphone video viewing and the decline of traditional TV watching, there is still a substantial amount of overlap. While Gen Z will continue to rely heavily on their smartphones for entertainment, smart TVs are also having a significant, growing impact on the video landscape because of how important they are for family watching.

For years, online video streaming has been dominated by YouTube, as it has long been the most popular video platform in the world. However, in a relatively brief amount of time, TikTok has become a go-to video destination for Gen Z. Both platforms have contributed to changing how people consume video entertainment on smartphones and are now making greater efforts to draw viewers to smart TV screens.

For instance, TikTok has been testing a TV app that is available through Google TV and Samsung Smart TVs in Southeast Asia. It has a feature that allows videos that are started on the TV to be finished on a smartphone and vice versa. The introduction of TikTok Series, a new format where some creators can produce longer, paid content, is helping bridge the gap between smartphone and TV viewers. This strategy introduces a more traditional streaming subscription business model and encourages creators to produce more high-quality material that will display well on a horizontal smart TV screen, as opposed to the traditional vertical phone display.

Last summer, smart TV giant VIZIO announced the launch of the TikTok TV app from the platform’s home screen. In order to help users discover their new favorite TikTok trends, VIZIO allows TikTok TV content on its home page as part of the launch, with a dedicated carousel highlighting the most popular videos and categories.

Similarly, YouTube is prepared to expand its efforts to attract users of smart TVs. Naturally, conventional YouTube has been accessible on smart TVs for a while. In addition to migrating the popular, parent-favorite YouTube Kids app into the main YouTube smart TV app, and the company's experiments with free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels, the company’s smart TV strategy appears to be taking shape.

In order to satisfy the needs of Gen Z audiences as they get older, streaming companies — both those rooted in traditional TV and those in social media — need to continue to evolve. While some traditional streamers have experimented in interactive titles and some live TV streaming services are introducing interactive sports feeds, there is still a long way to go to meet young video streamers where they are.


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