BOSTON -- Forget generation gaps measured in decades. Today’s teenage viewers (call them “Gen Z”) are exhibiting media behaviors that are significantly different than their brothers and sisters who are just a few years older, according to panelists at the INTX session “Z-ing the Future: The Post-Millennial Generation and Its Impact on…Just about Everything.”
Although the speakers at this Tuesday session waffled on the precise age bracket of Gen Z, the range seems to be from pre-teen to 18 year olds, with some analyses pointing a little higher toward college age. This is a group whose viewing habits are shaped by other media consumption experiences – especially since they came of age when individual songs (streamed or downloaded) were the norm, rather than the need to buy full music albums, explained Jake Katz, vice president of audience insights and strategy at Revolt TV.
YouTube is the #1 media preference at the youngest ranks of this age bracket, replacing Nickelodeon or Disney, which dominated the viewing of their older siblings, said Evan Shapiro, executive vice president-Digital Enterprises at NBCUniversal.
Katz observed that this age group “wants to watch on-demand content.”
“They look at the channel guide and the channel bundle and don’t understand it,” Katz said. He predicted that skinny bundles will become the standard for this generation of viewers.
Since these young consumers grew up during the Great Recession of the past decade, they exhibit risk-adverse traits similar to their grandparents who lived through the 1930s Depression.
“Price is the No. 1 factor” in their media decisions, NBCU’s Shapiro said. “The ability to cancel a service, to get out, is No. 2.” Shapiro also emphasized that for the kinds of video they like, “It’s OK to be less than broadcast quality,” meaning that rough visuals of desirable content is more important than highest-quality production values.
Shapiro also pointed out the looming massive demographic change in Gen Z, stressing that it is “the last generation that will be majority white.” He and other speakers observed that while they are fearful of terrorism as their top public issue concern, they are also deeply thoughtful about social injustice and they expect to work “within the system” to foment change.
Colan Neese, audience insights manager at Twitch, reinforced that viewpoint, noting that “Twitch blew up” with supportive commentary on the day when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on same-sex marriage approval.
Neese, a former Nielsen analyst, also focused on the importance of e-sports to this age group, in the process emphasizing Twitch’s path to prominence as a social platform on which viewers can watch and discuss videogame competitions. He questioned whether the traditional advertising or business models for televised sports coverage could “creep into e-sports” since viewers are accustomed to watching such programming on digital platforms. “When people mentioned e-sports, they don’t realize it’s a highly competitive area… [with] hundreds of niche activities,” Neese said.
Looking ahead, what’s the impact of Gen Z on conventional cable and media businesses? According to Dipan Patel, vice president of new growth and development for Cox Communications, the potential is very significant.
“This generation is self-taught, and it carries into other parts of their lives, [as they] get things done,” Patel said. He believes that today’s formative media behaviors that “they are exhibiting now will be strong enough to be permanent.”
Patel expects that post-millennials “will come back to cable.” But he emphasized, “There will be some shocks.”