Media companies need to adapt and offer more than high-tech "bells and whistles" to keep the attention of young consumers, who are much more demanding than the Baby Boomer generation.
That's one of the main findings of an annual leisure-time study conducted by MTV Networks, which has created a new name for consumers aged 12 to 24 — "media-actives." The name stems the from group's selectivity, confidence and impatience in its media behavior, according to MTVN executive vice president of research and planning Betsy Frank.
During a press briefing last week on MTVN's fifth annual "Survey of Media, Entertainment and Leisure Time," Frank said that TV use among this generation has not declined. These young consumers on average spent more than half their media-use time watching TV — 2.4 hours out of their total 4.2 hours of media use each day.
Those 25 and older spend 3.6 hours of their total 5.2 hours of media-use time in front of the boob tube. But Frank said that "television is not a passive activity" for these "media-actives," as it is for older folks.
"Media-actives," or those born after 1975, "process" information and entertainment differently, because they've been conditioned by the Internet to only sit still for content they actually want to see. They've also been spoiled by channels like Nickelodeon and MTV: Music Television, where there is always something on for their age group, according to the study.
And video games have allowed this group to manipulate reality, thus raising their expectations in terms of their control of media, Frank said.
In light of the behavior of this "media-active" demographic, Frank warned that media companies can't afford to be complacent, continuing to cater to older mass audiences. That's because by 2020, about 60 percent of the population will be "media-active," or born since 1975, and media companies must take their demands into account, she said.
"Complacency as a strategy becomes unsupportable," she said. "And bells and whistles can't overcome programming that's irrelevant."
This group also wants facts, not bias, so it can reach its own conclusions on topics, Frank said. And brands will continue to be important, with most given berths across various platforms, she added.
Overall, the MTVN study found that television — despite the Internet — still represents more than half, or 57 percent, of the time spent with media, and that the simultaneous use of different media continues to grow.
The "media-active" have a penchant for using other media while on their PCs. For example, 18.6 percent of the time a "media-active" person listens to the radio while using a PC, and 20.3 percent of the time, they are watching TV while on the computer, according to the study.
The young also see the Internet as "a mainstream source of entertainment," particularly for music, Frank said.
MTVN's most recent study was conducted last November and December, based on a sample of 4,000 Americans aged 4 to 70.