November 21, 2017

Millennials & Old School TV

¹The best platform to tell your product story to millennials? It’s not what you think. As marketers, we’ve all heard the narrative that television ratings are down double digits, and that millennials care more about their phones and the million kinds of video content on them than they do about TV. But the empirical reality is different. In both time spent and in the emotional connection millennials feel with content, “linear” TV still handily beats other platforms. This includes YouTube, streaming platforms like Netflix, and video from social platforms like Facebook and Instagram — even for the 18 to 34 demographic.


Television is still the way to reach the millennial demo, according to a report by the Video Advertising Bureau (the VAB). The paper counters the narrative that millennials are abandoning TV, writes Adweek. How much do millennials watch versus the rest of us? Let’s take a look at the numbers. This is still a lot of time in front of the tube!


Share of Time May Be Even More Important

Yes, there is a difference in how much time millennials devote to TV versus the rest of us. But the story is in the share of time TV gets versus the other stuff millennials do — portrayed below. The VAB looked at millennials’ monthly time expenditure habits, and traditional TV still rules the roost. TV consumed 5,400 minutes of monthly time, with YouTube video coming in at 1,163.

Average Monthly Viewing Time, Minutes ¹

Higher Emotional Engagement: The Qualitative Difference

The Video Advertising Bureau, we should state, has a dog in the hunt. That’s the caveat. It’s an association of broadcast and cable networks, plus the largest cable companies, and its purpose is to promote the power of video advertising. Despite inherent bias, its insights are valuable.

The emotional connection viewers feel to the content they’re watching — and the experience they have while they watch — is arguably more important, according to the VAB. Here, traditional TV has a huge advantage, even if it is subjective and difficult to quantify.

Watching content on a mobile device is a different viewing experience from television. It’s highly fragmented, often maddening. We all know the annoyance of pulling up a YouTube video, only to have to watch a diaper ad first. Then there’s the experience of being force-fed video content from Facebook and being unable to stop the cat video when you’re in a meeting or the doctor’s office.

More Time Watching Fewer Things

TV viewers spend more time watching fewer things, with fewer distractions. Focus tends to be higher, allowing more time for bonds and attachments to form. On the 10 most viewed networks, TV viewers spent 292.5 billion minutes spread across just 635 programs. On YouTube, viewers spent 37.2 billion minutes across its 700,000+ channels.2 At 89%, the percentage of viewers who “highly enjoy” watching programming on TV is much greater than it is on other devices, and TV programming offers much greater opportunity for viewers to identify with and attach to characters.

TV is, indisputably, the platform that provides the strongest opportunity for storytelling and emotional engagement — even for millennials. For marketing and advertising directors managing significant budgets (TV isn’t cheap), this may be a critical planning insight as we look into an era of more fragmentation.

After all, it’s not like any of us would want to watch Ken Burn’s “Vietnam” series on an iPhone.


¹VAB’s data sources: Nielsen Total Audience Report, Q1 2017, Live + DVR + time shifted, weighted average for P18 to 34, reflecting activity on TV set only. Computer/laptop, and mobile viewing not included. ComScore MediaMetrix multi-platform data, p18-34, July 2017. Average minutes per visitor. ComScore data do not include mobile video.
²VAB’s data sources: TV: Nielsen nPower Live + 7, Total Day, P2+, 7/3/17 to 7/30/17, ranked on average time spent per week with net, number of total minutes includes all telecasts. YouTube: Comscore Video Metrix multi-platform. Total minutes: July 2017, Desktop, OTT: P2+, Mobile P18+ number of channels based on Social Blade data, August 2017.