Making TV More Social For Multi-tasking Millennials

The television industry is ever-changing as Millennials, in particular, are consuming content on new media and interacting with TV in innovative ways. This generation shaped the music industry in their preference to access content rather than own it, and, in recent years, they’ve induced innovation across the TV industry too. We’ve noticed several shifts not only in how they watch content (streaming shows on computers, tablets, and smartphones more and more), but also in how they interact around television, even when they’re watching shows alone. Networks, marketers, tech companies, and more are responding to their habits and preferences by making content more accessible, interactive, and sharable, and this has resulted in several trends:

Redefining The Second Screen

The traditional TV set is still Millennials’ preferred place to watch a show (18-24 year olds watch 24 hours and 44 minutes of TV in this way per week), yet Nielsen’s findings also illustrate a continuous decline in traditional TV viewership. Instead, Millennials are increasingly watching shows on non-traditional media (they watch 5 hours and 39 minutes of video online per week), but most often, they engage old media (TV) and new media (portable devices) simultaneously in what’s known as “the second screen.” We have tracked this trend and found that 9 in 10 (89%) Millennials surf the Web on their computer while watching television on a set.



However, we’re seeing another change as the second screen is now becoming the first screen. Gen Y is becoming more interested in multi-tasking on one device as they watch shows. Three-quarters (74%) of Millennials say they watch video content while also doing their homework on the same laptop. Live TV still dominates, but the use of one device for everything is nearing a tipping point.

Companies such as Cartoon Network are embracing this growing demand, and its CN 2.0 app allows users to play games and view content simultaneously on the same device. We expect to see more companies adopt this offering as digital natives don’t want to pause play; they want to have an interactive viewing experience.

Marketing TV Through New Media

Gen Y is also leading the way in socializing online around television, which is shaping how shows are marketed to them. This fall TV season, numerous networks, including Fox and NBC, made select pilots available online before they aired on TV. This is to build buzz both on the Web and through WOM marketing. By rewarding viewers with early access and a “sample” of their product, networks are letting the audience be the brand ambassadors.

Moreover, networks know that their Millennial viewers spend much of their time online, so they are advertising on and around social media. The CW for example is including an LCD insert in an issue of Entertainment Weekly that will show a short video of its new lineup, and also include a live Twitter feed of the network’s account. ABC Family has been sending text promos to fans of its hit show, “Pretty Little Liars,” for a while now when they sign up to receive sneak peeks or “texts from A.” These are just several methods that networks are using to engage young fans, advertise in interactive ways, and even stretch the content’s narrative outside the TV screen.

Networks also know that they have to keep fans entertained during the off-season of their show, as well as between episodes. More and more networks are offering web series tied to their shows to boost online engagement by keeping fans hooked and talking about their shows. MTV, for example, launched a social game/experience on Facebook earlier this year called “Teen Wolf: The Hunt,” which was tied to its popular program and kept fans interested between episodes. Users could create profiles and have virtual Facebook-style chats with the show’s characters, see video clips, and be sent on a series of tasks tied to the show. MTV let fans be participatory viewers, which is something this generation craves.

Social Viewers & Shapers

Social viewing apps including GetGlue have been around for a while, but more are evolving or hitting the market to meet the changing needs of Millennials. GetGlue advanced its app with GetGlue HD, which enhances the second screen by offering video clips and discovery tools in addition to check-ins and social chatter. Viewers can better understand what’s on TV, who’s watching, and what else they may like. Moreover, the Zeebo app just launched in the U.S. in partnership with Comcast, NBCUniversal, and HBO. The app identifies what TV shows viewers are watching and provides relevant information from social networks. It also tells users what their friends are watching and has commerce capabilities, giving viewers direct access to products advertised during commercials.

Millennials are also influencing the content on TV based on their behavior on social media. In today’s digital age, fans are tweeting their thoughts about shows in real time, which is letting writers and producers understand what their audiences care about, and, in turn, impacting the scripts. While Twitter buzz doesn’t necessarily correlate with viewership, it says a lot about why certain elements of a show are working. According to a survey from TV Guide, nearly 20% of adults have started watching a show because of social buzz. Moreover, while fans’ reactions on social media can spoil the show for those who haven’t seen it yet and writers have to not to let fans control too much of their story, Twitter, in particular, has created a new type of interaction between viewer and creator.

1 comment about "Making TV More Social For Multi-tasking Millennials ".
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  1. Michael Martinez from Consultant, January 18, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.

    Sorry, but I don't see this data in the Nielsen cross-platform report: Millennials "watch 5 hours and 39 minutes of video online per week."
    It seems that 18-34yo are watching 8hours per month, or 18-24yo are watching about 9.5 hours per month. The only per week data I could find said 1 hour per week for 18-24 thought that was the entire population and not just those who watch online video.
    I definitely might have missed it, but can you confirm what you were seeing?

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