Millennial’s Relationship with TV: It’s Complicated


For all the talk of cord-cutting and changing environments, Millennials still consume an incredible amount of television.

What has changed, though, is HOW millennials consume TV. Streaming, binge watching, and the internet have certainly changed things. Today over 89% of Millennials regularly watch online videos. While the average amount of time Millennials spend watching traditional television has shrunk, the overall amount of time they spend watching video (whether it be on iPads, laptops, or their phones) has increased to an average of nearly 6-hours per day.

Millennials Watch DifferentlyNot only has the WAY Millennials watch changed, so has when they watch. Back before streaming services and even before TiVo so-called “appointment viewing” was very important. Appointment viewing suggest that, if something you want to see airs at 8pm EST, you better have you but on the couch at 8pm EST, because if you miss it, you miss it! Yes, you might get lucky and catch a re-run, but those are unpredictable, you never know when they are coming.

Also, before YouTube or, more broadly, the internet, the working portion of the population would do all its TV watching when they got home from work, that meant in the evening. This helps to explain why  time-slots were so important back in the day and why they are less important today—because many people watch video while they are at work or they just play reruns on-demand for themselves whenever they feel like it!

While a study by Parks Associates shows that on-demand viewing among Millennials is increasingly popular, even young people agree that there IS still a place for live television. For one thing, live television is a more passive form of entertainment which is particularly nice when you don’t have the metal energy to actively choose a show. For another, shows like SNL, the news, and Late Night are as popular now as ever and part of their charm comes from the fact that they are live. So live television isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Commercial Adaptation
These evolving aspects of American culture may not be interesting to your average consumer, but they are VERY interesting to marketers. Marketers now know that they have to diversify how and when they are reaching younger audiences. That is why you see adds on YouTube today that in the past would have been broadcast on National Television.

Why You Should Reduce Your TV Consumption

We are in a golden age for television, an age which began with the Sopranos and has continued with shows like Mad Men, Big Little Lies, The Handmaid’s Tale, Ozarks, and the like. There is nothing wrong with spending time watching these shows. Some, in fact, have so much depth and nuance (Mad Men, for example) watching them with a critical eye can actually help you develop as a person in much the same way as reading a great novel. The power of being able to watch whatever you want whenever you want lies in no longer having to sit through the mind-numbing programs that some market in some far-off place has chosen for you. Today you, the consumer, have more power than ever. But with power comes responsibility, and if you are watching excessive amounts of television (and the average, 6-hours per day IS excessive) your walling yourself of from experiencing life at its fullest. Forget binge watching and come up with a maximum number of episodes per day for yourself, maybe just one or two. Doing so will not only spread out the pleasure of watching whatever show you’re currently watching, it will also open you up to experiencing more of what life has to offer.