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Do Millennials Still Watch TV?

As new technologies take hold and new generations come of age, it’s always tempting to make assumptions about how the two of them interact. However, doing so is a risk, particularly if you’re using those assumptions as the basis for an advertising strategy. One of the most significant current assumptions is that Millennials have stopped watching TV and turned over to streaming and on-demand services. But is this really the case?

A Different Landscape

The short answer is: of course not. The power of traditional TV hasn’t died, it’s just changed.

The days of entire families gathering around the television set to watch their favourite shows together night after night are largely gone, taking with them the kind of viewing figures we saw in the 1980s. Only Fools And Horses episodes in 1996 and 2001 are the only non-news or sport programmes from the last 25 years to feature in the list of most-watched shows of all time in the UK, while only the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics are in the top ten list for special events.

Some of this is down to the massive expansion of channels in the satellite/cable/streaming era, which has given consumers so much more choice. As a result, viewership is much more fragmented and shows on the main network channels no longer get anywhere near the viewing figures they used to. It’s a safe assumption that amongst the main beneficiaries of this variety of options are millennials.

They’ve grown up in a multi-channel world and have had YouTube and on-demand technology available for much of their lives. This means they’re naturally more likely to take advantage of them than their parents, who grew up in a world with only four or even three channels. Whenever technology is involved, you can always expect to see a clear distinction in habits between the generations, and media is no different.

TV Traction

However, that doesn’t mean millennials don’t watch TV. Stats have shown that they do, with a 2016 Nielsen report revealing that Adults aged 18-34 spent 66% of their average weekly gross viewing time watching traditional TV. There’s certainly a big difference between this age group and the group aged 35+, which spends 89% of its time watching traditional TV, but the gulf isn’t big enough to support suggestions that millennials are shunning the television entirely.

The continued significance of TV among Millennials and undeniable popularity of shows like The Great British Bake-Off (which 36% of Millennials enjoy discussing with friends – online and offline) represent a great opportunity for brands. The Nielsen report we’ve mentioned found that while the 18-34s were less likely to change the channel during an ad break, they were also less likely to actually remember what the adverts they witnessed were. So many brands are paying for ad time that’s essentially going to waste.

TV content doesn’t have this problem. During the programmes themselves, audiences are engaged and more receptive to what they’re seeing. This means they’re more likely to respond to stimuli around products. To continue the focus on food, mporium IMPACT research has found that mentions of dishes and ingredients in popular cookery shows creates significant spikes for related phrases on Google.

For example, a mention of mushrooms in a January 2017 episode of Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast resulted in a significant spike in searches for the term ‘mushrooms’.

Do Millennials Still Watch TV | mporium

Meanwhile, in the month prior, a mention of ‘lasagne’ on the same show inspired a number of searches for that particular dish.

Do Millennials Still Watch TV | mporium

More and more, we find that the question isn’t so much ‘are Millennials still watching TV?’ but ‘how are they watching TV?’.

The Meaning of Millennial

It’s also important to be aware that the term ‘millennials’ itself can be misleading as it refers to a generation in a constant state of flux and change, so the viewing habits of an 18-year-old student will be very different to that of a 33-year-old parent of a small child. “It’s not about age, it’s about life stage,” said Glenn Enoch Executive VP of Audience Insights for Nielsen. “18-34 year olds are not a monolithic group with a common set of technologies or behaviors. Their lives are in rapid transition as they join the workforce, move into their own homes and start families.”

Those who own their own homes and have families are more likely to watch more traditional TV than those who don’t, on average an extra hour a day according to the Q4 2015 Nielsen Total Audience Report. Other reports have backed this up, with an analysis of past Nielsen reports by CBS Vision showing that adults in 2016 watched 67% more TV when they were 25-34 than they did when they were in the 18-24 demographic.

Advertisers need to understand these distinctions if they are going to market to millennials and not treat them as one block of scruffy social media-addicted YouTubers living with their parents. They have a complex and wide-ranging set of needs, expectations and dreams, so need to be marketed to accordingly.

And, yes, they can be marketed to on traditional TV channels. It’s just a case of understanding how.

Want to learn more about how to connect with Millennials through traditional TV? Contact the team at mporium to see how mporium IMPACT can help serve your offerings exactly when it’s desired.

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