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Millennial Media Behavior Deep Dive: The Real Stats On How They’re Watching

Entertainment fragmentation is in many ways being fueled by Millennials, who are usually the first to adopt second (and even third) screen behaviors that brands then race to keep up with. Understanding where these young consumers’ eyes are actually watching content, and how they are accessing it, has become increasingly complicated, but we watch these trends carefully our media behavior tracker, which we regularly field in our bi-weekly survey of Millennials 14-32-years-old. Today we’re diving into our most recent data to explore what young consumers’ viewing behavior really looks like today—and how much time-shifting, cord-cutting, and second screen use is impacting their entertainment consumption.

Because of their fractured entertainment experience, when we ask our panel about their viewing behavior, we distinguish between three distinct points to capture each important element of their viewing process. First we keep tabs on the service, or content provider, they use to view their content— be it Netflix, a cable subscription, Hulu, or a host website like YouTube. Next comes the device—basically where that content is actually sent. If you are streaming Netflix through a browser on your computer, the computer is the device. The final point is the screen in which the content is viewed on. When you stream Netflix on a browser on your laptop, the laptop is both the device and screen, but when you connect that laptop to flat screen TV, the TV is now the screen while the laptop is the device. By tracking all three elements, we get a clearer picture of cord-cutting, streaming behavior, and can really look at how Millennials are getting and watching their media. 

When we ask 14-32-year-olds about the services they use to watch visual content like shows, movies, etc. in a typical week, cable is still their lead source:

39% are watching live cable five days or more per week, and combined with the 25% watching DVR’d content that makes cable the top service they are using to access content. However, Netflix is trailing directly behind live cable for Millennials overall, and 61% are watching content via some streaming service five days or more per week–which means streaming trails cable as a content source only 3%. Breaking the data out by males and females, we can see there are a few gender differences: males are more likely to watch live cable, and far more likely to watch content via other websites and digital files. Almost across the board, males are using a variety of services to access content more than females. So though this group is often one of the more difficult for marketers to capture, there are potentially more ways to reach out to them. Some more interesting differences emerge when looking at service data broken out by student status:

Not surprisingly, non-students are watching cable and DVR-ed content far more than students, and college students are the most likely to be using Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and HBO GO to access content. Streaming services fit in more naturally with these students’ more erratic schedules, but we’d also venture a guess that they are not yet paying for any of these accounts themselves (thanks mom and dad!) so they are potentially more accessible to them than to older Millennials footing their own bills. Interestingly, and perhaps tellingly, older Millennials–college students and those out of school–are more likely to watch DVDs/Blu-Rays than Millennials in high school. If high schoolers continue this non-disc viewing behavior as they age, we’ll continue to see a shift to digital and streaming and a lack of demand for physical ownership of content.

But to access all of these services, Millennials are using a variety of devices, with their laptops coming in close second to cable boxes:

The gender differences we see here align with the differences in services used: males are far more likey to use their laptops, game consoles, and other devices to access content through the streaming and non-cable services they are more likely to be using. For Millennials overall, viewing content on their smartphones is trailing behind laptops, but still 30% are watching content on phones five or more days per week, which is not insignificant. However, when looking at student status, some real smartphone viewing trends emerge: 

At 43%, high school students are significantly more likely to be watching content on their smartphones weekly, which means that anyone who wants to get the attention of these 14-18-year-olds needs to make mobile a priority.

As we mentioned earlier, the device they are using to access content isn’t necessarily the end of the story. It’s not enough to say, “consumers are streaming to their devices,” considering many may be connecting these devices to their home TVs. While we may think that viewing on mobile devices means there are more people watching on the go, it’s also possible that they have simply ditched their cable box, opting to connect a tablet or laptop to a TV screen. Newer tech like Apple TV make screen sharing from mobile device to PC a breeze. So we also track their viewing by screen: 

Here we see that televisions are by far still the screens being used to watch the content they’re accessing by an increasing variety of services and devices, which means that though they’re open to tapping into content many different ways, there is still a significant preference for sitting and viewing that content in their homes over watching it on-the-go.

We’ll continue to track these behaviors over time, and keep tabs on the shifts in devices, services, and screens used and younger Millennials age up, and the opportunities to cord-cut increase.