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Gen Z & Millennials’ 20 Absolute Favorite TV Shows Now

With more content than ever before, and the definition of what “TV” is in constant flux, what are the shows that Gen Z and Millennials love now? We asked 1000 13-35-year-olds their absolute favorite currently airing shows to find out…

When we covered the potential coming shakeups in the streaming landscape, we reviewed the fact that the explosion of original content from SVOD (streaming video on demand) providers in recent years has changed the game, making Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix more than under-the-radar annoyances for major networks—they’re now the big rivals in the room. It’s a new era, and one that many never thought would arrive. With more content being created than ever before, it’s never been more difficult to become a favorite of Millennial and Gen Z viewers. Competition for young viewers is at a high, and everyone is spending big bucks on original content to capture them.

Because it turns out saving money might not be cord cutters’ top reason for switching to streaming. Instead, a recent Magid Associates survey found that “the attractions” of SVOD programming (aka their content) is their top reason for making the move, followed by the overall decline of TV-viewing among 18-24-year-olds. Cable companies are trying to reel The Post-TV Gen back in by offering lower-cost cable bundles (so-called “skinny bundles”), but stepping up their shows might be a better first step to reversing the “accelerating” trend of cutting the cord.

So are they stepping up their content in the eyes of Gen Z and Millennials? To find out, and keep tabs on the ongoing network/streaming content competition, in our latest survey on TV and entertainment we asked 1000 13-35-year-olds, “Which show that you watched during the most recent 2016-2017 season was your absolute favorite?”* Here are their favorite currently airing TV shows, ranked:

*This was an open-end response question to allow us to capture the full range of TV shows that Gen Z and Millennial consumers consider their favorites—without our preconceived ideas shaping their responses. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind and those that are most popular. The lists are ordered according to number of responses received, and alphabetically when ties occurred.

What Is Their Absolute Favorite TV Show Now?


      1. Game of Thrones
      2. The Walking Dead
      3. This Is Us
      4. Rick & Morty
      5. Stranger Things
      6. Grey’s Anatomy
      7. Big Brother
      8. Big Bang Theory
      9. House of Cards
      10. American Horror Story
      11. Orange is The New Black
      12. The Flash
      13. Handmaid’s Tale
      14. Supernatural
      15. Jane the Virgin
      16. Modern Family
      17. Insecure
      18. Shameless
      19. Better Call Saul
      1. 13 Reasons Why

Once again, Game of Thrones is the top show among 13-35-year-olds overall, continuing its dominance – but after than we see some interesting difference from the 2016 favorite show list.

Last year, Netflix held two of the top three favorite shows overall (Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things). In potential good news for networks, two of the top three shows this year air on cable. The Walking Dead takes the top two spot overall, and This Is Us, NBC’s breakout hit, is number three. But still, the top 20 list is sprinkled with shows from streaming services, including Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s newer 13 Reasons Why—so while network TV is keeping up with streaming, the rise of SVOD originals is clear here. In fact, according to TechCrunch, while most Americans are still turning to live TV programming for their viewing, 19% now say their “default” source for programming is Netflix, up from 15% last year. The study from Hub Entertainment Research also found that Netflix is the first choice for 50% of 16-24-year-olds—not surprising considering the site’s hold on Millennials.

But we continued to see the popularity of network shows when looking at the top five series among males, females, Gen Z, and Millennials:

Game of Thrones is near unbeatable, coming in as the top favorite among all groups but Gen Z (where interestingly it does not make the top five). The beloved Rick & Morty managed to make the top five in all groups, as did The Walking Dead, and This Is Us snagged the top two spot among both females and Millennials overall. Not too shabby a showing for network TV.

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.