Made-for-TV movies have become a holiday industry, and they’re now beating out classics in the top ranking of Gen Z and Millennials’ favorite holiday films…
It’s the beginning of December, but holiday movie season is already well underway. Seven in ten young consumers (66% of Millennials and 76% of Gen Z) tell us they will be watching holiday movies for the holidays—but holiday media creep has made the festive fare a part of their traditions earlier every year. Holiday movies take over the screen well before December 1st. Freeform—formerly ABC Family—has a November countdown leading up to their December 25 Days of Christmas movie programming, and Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas now begins at the end of October. But that’s just on cable, because streaming services are full of holiday content all year long. Disney+ launched in early November with a host of holiday movie content, and BuzzFeed had curated a list of all of the Christmas movies available on the platform by mid-month.
Gen Z and Millennials’ holiday cheer is helping to drive these over-the-top Christmas content trends. Many young consumers are happy to have more holiday content, earlier and more often: 51% tell us they can’t get enough of holiday music and movies. We first started asking young consumers about their favorite holiday movies back in 2014, when there was less of a frenzy around Christmas content. This year, we checked in on their most-loved holiday content again, and found that the Christmas movie hype has seriously impacted their favorites:
Their Favorite Holiday Movies
The Nightmare Before Christmas
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Made-for-TV Holiday Movies
The Polar Express
A Christmas Story
The Santa Clause
It’s a Wonderful Life
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
A Christmas Carol
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Jingle All The Way
Elf and Home Alone are still their top two favorite holiday movies, as they were in 2014 and 2017. But this year, made-for-TV holiday movies are in their top 10 list—beating out classics like A Christmas Story and It’s a Wonderful Life. The “made-for-TV holiday movie” category here is a combination of respondents who named Hallmark, Lifetime, and Netflix holiday films—and while some mentioned specific titles (the most popular being Netflix’s A Christmas Prince) it was far more common for respondents to tell us they just like watching these movies in general. A 26-year-old female tell us her favorite holiday movie is “Sappy, love story holidays movies (Lifetime/Hallmark).” Females are definitely leading this trend, and were far more likely than males to name made-for-TV movies as their favorites.
The number of respondents who specifically named “Hallmark movies” as their favorite holiday movies increased significantly between our 2017 and 2019 holiday surveys. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that cheesy Hallmark holiday movies are having their heyday, and young consumers are eating them up. Super-fans download their checklist app and binge them for hours. Over 150 original Christmas movies have aired in total, and there are almost 40 new ones coming to the Hallmark channels this year. Hallmark sells merch specifically for binging their content, like ugly Christmas sweaters reading, “This is my Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Watching Sweater”—and t-shirts, wine glasses, pillows, and popcorn tubs with similar slogans. This year, they held their first-ever ChristmasCon, a haven for fans of their holiday films. With viewership numbers clearly enviable, Lifetime and now Netflix have followed in their footsteps, producing as much saccharine holiday content as they can for hungry viewers. A Christmas Prince, which Netflix once lampooned its own viewers for watching, now has two sequels, along with a meta-mention as the favorite holiday movie of the lead character in The Princess Switch (one of their other original Christmas films).
We’re clearly seeing the impact of the made-for-TV holiday movie hype in our data. In YPulse’s 2019 winter holidays survey, 65% of 13-37-year-olds told us they like watching made-for-TV holiday movies—an increase from 60% in 2018. BuzzFeed hypothesizes that it’s the mindless escapism that these movies offer that’s attracting young fans, and we know that young consumers in particular have been turning to specific content to cure their anxiety and stress, which could be part of the attraction to this particular genre of holiday content.