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Digital dominates ‘Gen Z’ viewing

DEFY Media, the digital producer and programmer focused, has published findings from its fourth annual ACUMEN Report: Youth Video Diet, conducted in partnership with Kelton Global and Hunter Qualitative. While last year’s findings illuminated 13-24 year old consumers’ deep connection with digital content and its rising stars – this year’s report focused on uncovering exactly where and when they’re watching, what they’re willing to pay for, and what ads they are willing to watch.

“Since last year’s report, the industry has experienced an explosion of new video platforms which increase the total addressable market for video viewing but also raise competition for the coveted attention of young viewers”

For the majority of today’s Gen Z and young millennial consumers, video is their daily lifeline. According to the report, they’re on “watch” from the start of their day (65 per cent report viewing before school or work) straight through to the evening hours (67 per cent watch while falling asleep), with barely a break in between. Moreover, despite academic or career pursuits, over 40 per cent engage while at school or on the job. Video platforms provide the connections they can’t live without – all day long – continuing to push TV further behind as a must have. Respondents unanimously shared video’s critical role in super-serving a diverse set of needs that TV just can’t satisfy, and that go well beyond daily amusement.

“Since last year’s report, the industry has experienced an explosion of new video platforms which increase the total addressable market for video viewing but also raise competition for the coveted attention of young viewers,” commented Andy Tu, DEFY Media’s EVP of Marketing. “The findings prove younger audiences’ increasing appetite for digital video that’s satisfying a diverse set of needs, and the importance of understanding preferences or risk being easily tuned out.”
The survey includes both quantitative and qualitative research methods, to provide a comprehensive and thoughtful view of Gen Z and young Millennials media behaviours, content consumption and influencers.

Daily Requirements

Video consumption is now an essential part of younger audience’s daily intake – as natural to them as the required dose of sleeping and eating – and with a growing supply of media platforms catering to their content cravings, that share of the pie continues to widen. Interestingly, convenience remains an important but not necessary precondition to viewing, with respondents sharing a high propensity for watching videos on a laptop or desktop (66 per cent vs. 76 per cent for smartphone).

Among the most highly-viewed video platforms, the report shows that YouTube still reigns with 85 per cent of respondents stating it’s their #1 go-to. Netflix falls just behind at 66 per cent, TV at 62 per cent, and Facebook, 53 per cent. But, when it comes to the sources they “CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT”, TV seems to be the first sacrifice. YouTube is the clear winner again at 67 per cent, Netflix at 51 per cent, with social media sources (net of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Tumblr) coming close at 48 per cent as video play significantly rises on these platforms. TV falls to almost half that of YouTube, with only 36 per cent stating they can’t live without the traditional tube.

Yet, there is a divide – it appears that age does matter when you get past these sources. For younger viewers ages 13-18, their next “must-have” is Vine. For the older set (19-24), Hulu and Blu-Ray/DVD show priority.

Social (Video) Climbing

While we know that younger audiences are inherently social and it comes as no surprise that social media drives their daily connections and need for self-expression, this year we see the bold emergence of video consumption across these platforms. In fact – and most telling – are the results showing that for Facebook, more consumers (60 per cent) use the platform for social and video vs. 40 per cent for social purpose alone. That’s a jump from use across other platforms like Instagram and Snapchat where video and social vs. just social use is on par (48 per cent vs. 52 per cent for both) and where Twitter and Tumblr have also grabbed a small portion of that pie (31 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively).

And while one may assume viewers are primarily watching videos of family and friends across these platforms, the report highlights that only 14 per cent view this type of video on social media. Twenty-four percent say they watch mostly videos featuring their favourite digital celebs, with that same percentage reported for videos with people they do not know personally, such as pranks or fails popular with this audience. When asked if they watch video of TV/Movie stars, just half that figure (11 per cent) said yes.

Time spent watching video further emphasizes viewer’s affinity for social video. Reported time spent watching video on social and free online sources combined equalled 12.1 hours weekly, trumping viewing on either subscription services (such as Netflix, Amazon or Hulu, among others) which tallied at 8.8 or Cable/Satellite TV which landed at 8.2 hours when compared.

So Satisfying

As part of this year’s report, ACUMEN explores the different needs that various video platforms may meet throughout the day. For these 13-24 year old consumers, boredom is not an option. While 77 per cent turn to digital video for those “boredom killer” moments, it turns out that youth can’t live without it because of many other needs these platforms fulfil.

Digital video satisfies a wide variety of needs respondents stated as priorities – whether it’s a mood lifter (57 per cent), stress reliever (61 per cent), the reason to stay up to date on what’s trending or new (60 per cent), to learn how to do something (47 per cent) or to lull oneself to sleep (44 per cent). Digital video was also not only for solo viewing – 58 per cent say it’s about family together time. The rise in digital video can be attributed to more than just accessibility; it also caters to a broader set of need states beyond sheer amusement.

Cord Cutting vs. Cost Cutting

TV still has a role, but its terrestrial nature and the fact they don’t view the content or personalities as relevant or relatable continues to challenge its place in their daily diet – and in the household – a hefty 38 per cent of those surveyed stated they did not have a cable/satellite box. Of this set, the financially independent respondents made it clear that the choice not to subscribe is not always about the economics. While 40 per cent say there are less expensive options, 24 per cent are just not interested in the content TV offers. For those that can afford it, almost 20 per cent say the cost is not worthwhile. For those whose households do have a cable connection, the cord is another benefit of still living under mom and dad’s roof, where someone else still foots the bill. When financially dependent youth leave home, just 56 per cent say they plan to subscribe to cable/satellite TV compared to 86 per cent who plan to subscribe to Netflix.

When it comes to certain digital video connections, responses show some things are worth paying for, or at least paying for some of the cost. Among users almost half (48 per cent) report paying for a sports app, while Amazon gets support from 50 per cent of youth, 55 per cent for Hulu, and 56 per cent for HBO or Showtime apps.

Appetising Ads

Last year’s ACUMEN report revealed the growing and significant influence of YouTube personalities, as well as viewer’s preference for content featuring these new digital celebs (43 per cent of 13-17 year olds opened content featuring their favourite talents). That study also showed 63 per cent would try a product or brand recommended by a YouTube star vs. 48 per cent by a TV/Movie star. This year ACUMEN dug deeper into that connection to uncover what message matters to them and answer whether all ads are created equal.

Growing ease to ‘ad block’ is giving rise to industry fears that interrupting young audiences’ valuable space and time comes with the real risk they will, and can, turn you off forever. The strength of digital talents’ relationship with their viewers has also given rise to more marketers leveraging the power of these influencers to break through youth’s screens in a more meaningful and entertaining manner. These savvy viewers know they can turn you off, but they also understand it’s just business and are willing to watch so their favourite personalities can earn. Sixty-three per cent agree that digital celebrities need ads on their channels to make a living and a significant 58 per cent say they don’t mind watching ads to support them.

But, how those advertisements are delivered still matters. While pre-roll continues to drop in favour – just over half (53 per cent ) are ok with that 1-minute spot while still preferring a 15-second commercial which gets that figure to 80 per cent, it’s the well-produced branded content or non-invasive intro/outro that rises to the top with this group. A whopping 89 per cent say the 5-second intro featuring a brand sponsor is always or sometimes “OK” (88 per cent for the end screen), 87 per cent approve of product placement in a video, the same goes for digital talents actually demonstrating a product or calling out a sponsor.

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