Study indicates millennials still prize the traditional tube

Jim Parsons, star of "The Big Bang Theory," one of the top millennial tv shows.

TV still matters, even to multitasking, second screen-loving millennials, according to a recent report by the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB).

The study, Millennials Decoded: Turnt Up for TV, found that Generation Y, contrary to how they are portrayed by a majority of media, spend more time with TV than with other mediums.

The VAB, an advocacy group dedicated to providing advertisers and their agencies with the most current, complete and actionable media insights, conducted a comprehensive analysis of verified industry video for the study and found that the coveted demographic segment values the original video delivery system, and the shows it puts out, much more than was thought. Millennials Decoded also uses tongue-in-cheek slang and lingo peppered throughout, even presenting a “Millennial Decoder” to define words like bae, cray and thirsty.

“The avalanche of millennial research has hyped isolated characteristics that can be misleading, via proprietary studies that can’t be verified,” said Jason Wiese, VP/Strategic Insights at the VAB. “We’re providing clarity on overall viewing – scale, time and impact – from audited, third-party, industry standard sources, so advertisers and agencies can see younger consumers from a more accurate perspective.”

TV: now more than ever

One big find from the study was that adults ages 18-34 watch TV more now than at the beginning of the millennium – 65 million millennials watched TV in the first quarter in 2016 vs. 61 million for the same period in 2002. In addition, the weekly reach showed that, while the smartphone is the highest reaching device for this age group, TV is still tops when it comes to video consumption, ranking at 75 per cent, nearly 20 per cent above smartphone video. TV also accounts for 88% of total video consumption among millennials, and crushes other video delivery systems on a per-minute basis.

One reason for the spike is the second screen social nature. When millennials watch, they want to share their opinions, fueling social network conversation about shows and stars, which in turn drives digital categories that advertise heavily on television. Although they’re noted for binge-watching online, millennials watch 90% of their TV live. Their appetite for posting and tweeting about TV episodes requires keeping pace with the storylines.

Millennials are engaging with TV brands twice as much as they’re doing anything on the four Internet portals (Yahoo, AOL, Google, MSN/Bing), Facebook and YouTube (89 hours vs. 43 hours per month). In particular, they’re watching TV a lot more than YouTube. In May 2016, adults 18-34 watched nearly 61 hours of ad-supported TV vs. nearly 14 hours of YouTube (82 per cent to 18 per cent). For 25-34, TV time is 84 per cent (70 vs. 13 hours). And while YouTube viewing is rising for 18- to 24-year-olds, TV still commands 77 per cent of their viewing time (47 vs. 14 hours).

Of all the younger-skewing websites, only Facebook, YouTube or Pandora would rank within the top 100 TV programs for millennials. On a time-spent basis, TV outpaces Facebook and YouTube in average audience by more than 3-to-1 and 4-to-1, respectively. Similarly, many younger-skewing TV programs boast considerably higher audiences than leading Ad Tech platforms. Empire holds a 70 per cent advantage of Facebook and The Bachelor outdraws YouTube by 30 per cent, while The Voice beats Instagram 4-to-1 and Teen Mom 2 bests Buzzfeed by 11 to 1.

Millennials are driving the spend

Millennial TV personalities are leading the charge on programming, starring in exciting and edgy programs geared towards a young audience. Their audiences are huge too – 10 top millennial TV shows average 9.3 million viewers vs. 1.6 million average for 10 top YouTube channels. Those top 10 shows included, as of May, according to Nielsen: the NBA conference finals (2.5m viewers), Empire (2.3m), Billboard Music Awards (1.7m), the Kentucky Derby (1.4m), The Bachelorette (1.18m), Grey’s Anatomy (1.18m), The Big Bang Theory (1.17m), America’s Got Talent (1.17m), Modern Family (986k) and Survivor (918k)

Top millennial TV stars also tend to have larger social media followings than top YouTube personalities as well (2.9 million average Twitter followers for TV vs. 2.7 million for YouTube).

This connection with TV brands influences millennials’ purchasing. TV is helping drive multi-billion-dollar app, gaming and fantasy sports businesses that rely predominantly on Gen Y customers. With two of three daily fantasy sports players and nearly half of all smartphone app users between the ages of 18 and 35, these fast-growing industries are building their businesses largely on TV – collectively spending more than $1 billion on TV advertising across a wide range of programming. The vast majority of these advertisers show a direct correlation between TV advertising and sales.

“Marketers need to refocus on the big picture,” said Danielle DeLauro, SVP/Strategic Sales Insights at the VAB. “Millennials’ commitment to TV brands is greater than ever, as their engagement extends beyond TV to digital and social channels. Most importantly, millennials are persuaded by advertising on TV which is driving billion-dollar categories in mobile apps, gaming and fantasy sports.”

TV cannot rest on its laurels, however. Gen Z is close behind and is more wired than ever. Still, if television can bridge the cross screen gap between the generations, it should remain one of the healthiest mediums for video consumption.

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