Get YPulse newsletters straight to your inbox, including daily Gen Z news and insights.

Are Young People Paying Attention to Award Shows?

Mar 24 2022

Ahead of this weekend’s Oscars, we’re looking at the top pop culture moments young people are actually paying attention to. Here’s what we found…


TL;DR:

  • Award shows are far outranked by memes/viral videos, album drops, celeb scandals, and more when it comes to the pop culture moment young people say they pay attention to  
  • Social media is stealing away young award show viewers, who are following the events on their feeds instead of watching
  • But that doesn’t mean that young people don’t care about the movies: releases of new movies are actually one of the top pop culture moments they say they follow

Gen Z and Millennials are redefining pop culture, and proving a more difficult audience to reach for the marketers who once relied on a set calendar of events. We told you about the top pop culture moments Gen Z and Millennials say their generations care about—and broke down how these young generations are shifting their attention to less predictable moments driven by social media. But in addition to asking what pop culture moments they think their generations care about most, we asked what pop culture moments they follow or pay attention to themselves. With the Oscars coming up this weekend, we’re taking a look at the data to see how many  will be paying attention. Here are the top responses we got when our Pop Culture Redefined research asked 13-39-year-olds, “Which types of pop culture moments do you watch or follow in some way?”:

The Pop Culture Moments They Watch or Follow in Some Way
Among 13-39-year-olds

  1. Release of a new movie (34%)
  2. A meme / viral video on social media (34%)
  3. Release of a new album / song (30%)
  4. Release of a new TV show (30%)
  5. The finale of a popular TV show (25%)
  6. Political events (24%)
  7. A celebrity scandal (23%)
  8. A big sports event (22%)
  9. Release of a new video game (21%)
  10. An award show (18%)
  11. Trending hashtags on social media (15%)
  12. I don’t care about any of these moments (13%)
  13. A big fashion event (12%)
  14. A streamed or virtual concert (11%)
  15. Special product drops from celebs/brands (9%)
  16. Brand wars on social media (9%)

Memes / viral videos on social media are one of the top pop culture moments Gen Z and Millennials are paying attention to.
Starting from the top: Gen Z and Millennials are most likely to say that they personally pay attention to meme / viral videos on social media, mirroring the ranking of the top pop culture moments they say their generations care about. And when we look at the differences between the two generations, Gen Z is much more likely than Millennials to say they follow memes / viral videos on social media, with 47% saying they pay attention to them compared to 29% of the older gen. Of course, the other pop culture moments on the list are actually curated and culled to be turned into viral content themselves, with meme-able moments coming to rule live events as these generations age up. Interestingly, while trending hashtags on social media ranked far higher on the list of pop culture moments that Gen Z and Millennials say their generations care about, they’re far less likely to say that they themselves pay attention to trending hashtags. But there is little argument that social content in general dominates the pop culture landscape for young people.

Award shows are far lower on the list of pop culture moments they’re paying attention to.
Award shows are certainly not a top pop culture moment that young people say they pay attention to, which aligns with what we’ve told readers in the past. In 2020, we told you how young consumers really feel about award shows over half saying they don’t watch because they don’t care who wins, and the majority saying that awards don’t correlate with the movies they actually think are good–something The Academy has been trying to address with the failed “popular” film category and this year’s #OscarsFanFavorite Twitter vote. Of course, diversity has also been a major issue, with half of young people telling YPulse they don’t feel award shows are diverse enough. But perhaps one of the biggest reasons that young people aren’t watching award shows is because they feel they don’t have to watch the ceremonies to keep up with them: most say they just find out about who won on social media instead of watching, and our Pop Culture Redefined research found that more than half of those who do follow awards shows say they do so on social media. Of course, awards have been more aggressively using social media to reach this audience in recent years. In addition to the #OscarsFanFavorite effort, The Academy has been tapping creators on TikTok to generate hype about this year’s ceremony, and the #Oscars hashtag on the app has 1.7B views. Meanwhile, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival started a partnership with TikTok which will include a #TikTokShortFilm in-app competition that lets TikTokers submit vertical short films that will be judged by well-known directors; and MTV’s VMAs added an award category to recognize up-and-coming artists and creators on the app to draw in more users.

But new movie releases are one of the top moments they pay attention to, and TV releases are in the top five ranking.
The release of new movies are a top pop culture moment young people say they follow, and TV show releases and finales made their top five ranking as well. Clearly, Gen Z and Millennials care about movies—they just don’t care about the awards they get. Their excitement about movie releases is clearly seen in the social content that they’re creating: Ahead of the latest Spider-Man film’s release, TikTok became one of the hottest spots for Spidey fans to engage with the film’s premiere. The app gave TikTokers the option to share videos with special portal effects, be part of a creator-led red carpet premiere, and become honorary interns for Betty Brant and The Daily Bugle. And so far this year, the movie to generate equivalent buzz is DC and Warner Bros. The Batman starring Robert Pattinson and Zoë Kravitz, which has already raked in over $300 million in the North American Box Office. Its popularity (thanks in part to the Twilight star) has inspired thousands of memes online. Meanwhile, young fans are engaging with the release of new TV shows and finales in a similar way. We told you which TV shows are currently young people’s favorite right now—and of course, Squid Game was at the top of that list. 2021 was the year of Squid Game as young fans flooded social media with theories, memes, reenactments, makeup tutorials, and Halloween costumes from the Korean drama. And this year, several shows have already been dominating young people’s social feeds. We told you about how young viewers are obsessed with Showtime’s survival drama Yellowjackets (some are even comparing it to Squid Game) and the second season of HBO’s Euphoria, which is the “most-tweeted TV show of the decade (so far),” according to the social platform. Gen Z and Millennials are actually a highly engaged audience—but marketers need to adjust their plans to align with the pop culture moments that they’re actually most interested in.

YPulse Business users can access the full Pop Culture Redefined trend report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.

You might also like...

North America
You Got #Krissed is One of the Top Trending Hashtags This Month
According to Gen Z, trends start on TikTok first before spreading to other platform...
Western Europe
Young Europeans Say These Are Their 15 Favorite American Brands
American culture has infiltrated young Europeans’ lives—and that includes American ...
North America
Just How Big Has TikTok Use Gotten Among Gen Z?
No other platform has won Gen Z over as completely as TikTok–and these are the late...