Younger Users Lead Trend Away from TV, But They're Hardly Alone

I’ve just come across a survey carried out for Belkin, the maker of various computer and device accessories, that says that among 18 to 34 year olds, only 30% of  them expect that the TV in the living room will be their prime source of news and entertainment this year, quite unlike the majority of Americans and particularly older ones. (Among all of us, 49% this year still expect to rely on what has unaffectionately been called the idiot box.)

I know you haven’t done a spit-take upon reading that news. It’s not news, not in the least, that younger media consumers are doing a lot of that consuming on laptops, tablets and smartphones, maybe even in inverse order of how I just listed them.

The news might be how younger consumers are not very sure that even a laptop has much security on that lap in the future. In this survey, 38% said they’d consider replacing their laptop with a tablet in 2013.

But that trend, or pre-trend or whatever, isn’t exclusively a young thing: among consumers 44-54, a significant 33% said they would consider swepping the laptop for a tablet this year.  Almost a quarter of them say a smartphone, tablet or laptop is how they expect to get most of their news and entertainment in 2013, not wildly less than the younger users.

This has obvious ramifications for online video marketers, particularly as tablet and smartphone sales continue to rise, and OTT devices and enabled TVs gain a foothold in the market. We rapidly are coming to a time that it will be imperative for online videos —both in content and advertising—to work well on various screens, on various operating systems without a lot of pushback. Particularly for ad messages, there must be marketing strategies that address how viewers can watch ad messages on each screen, and how they want to. Almost my definition, it is different for each device.

The gender study, with charts was first noted by eMarketer. They made more of the age differences for devices than I do. It seems young consumers will always lead the way to new devices—it is a consumer rhythm built into their lives—but older consumers have by now wisely figured out that they are required to follow the trend by a sort of technological survival-of-the-fittest reality.  (If I had $5 for every reluctant middle-aged Tweeter I’ve met, I’d have...well, lots and lots of money.)

So while it’s true 56% of the respondents aged 45-54 say TV is their primary source of news and entertainment, it’s pretty significant to me that 41% answer that question by citing their laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet—and these are consumers who really do remember and lived in a pre-digital world.  Add up the figures of all the age groups and you see a mass market that online video makers and digital ad agencies know but that a lot of advertisers are missing badly. A lot of balking advertisers may think they’re just avoiding the online video trendoids at this point; really, they’re missing the boat.

HERE'S ANOTHER THING: This is not quite a full-fledged video online topic, but  there’s an awful lot of self-righteousness out there regarding Seth MacFarlane’s performance at the Oscars, particularly his send up of full-frontal nudity, “We Saw Your Boobs.”  In a tweet today, as reported by, MacFarlane defended himself somewhat by noting his tastelessness is not exactly groundbreaking, tweaking Huffington Post’s ongoing obsession with that same area of the female body.

So far, it’s been a slow news year.

17 comments about "Younger Users Lead Trend Away from TV, But They're Hardly Alone ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, February 26, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.

    A survey from Belkin is not a random sample, is it?

  2. Kevin Barry from Barry Marketing & Media, February 26, 2013 at 4:53 p.m.

    Well said, Douglas Ferguson. And I'll take a survey of actual behavior based on a carefully balanced sample (ever see the Nielsen Cross Platform Report?) over a self-reported survey that implies "how cool are you, anyway?" with each question.
    No doubt things are changing. They always have and they always will. But the pace of change is being exaggerated, usually by people with skin in the game. Always read the fine print.

  3. pj bednarski from Media business freelancer, February 26, 2013 at 5:01 p.m.

    I should have written that it was a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Belkin, so it has some statistical validity I would think. I like skeptics, though I wonder, what's their angle?

  4. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, February 26, 2013 at 8:38 p.m.

    Just because Belkin commissioned the research doesn't add validity. Research firms have become masters over the last decade (especially someone like Harris Interactive) of making sure they deliver the answers clients want with the full plausible deniability of "statistics". Truth about statistics? They only matter IF the population was chosen appropriately and IF the respondent's understanding of the question matches the way the research firm or client wants to interpret it. If either of this is a miss - the research firm will say they're within +/-3% when they're actually 100% wrong. Good catch, Mr. Ferguson.

  5. John Grono from GAP Research, February 26, 2013 at 10:23 p.m.

    When I first went from pure research to research agency-side in 1997, one of the first pieces of media-owner research I was presented with 'proved' that 16-24s had flocked to the Internet and that TV viewing was doomed as the viewing habits of these people had irreversibly changed (despite lots of other robust data that countered this supposition). Now 16 years on, the P1624 TV viewing IS down a bit ... but every one of those 16-24s form back in 1997 are now in the 25-39 demographic (and at the back-end of it) and lo and behold their TV viewing is pretty much the same as the 25-39s all those years ago. Sometimes it seems that the more things change the more they stay the same. Outtake: lifecycle is nore important than age.

  6. Michael Natale from MCM Media Sales, February 27, 2013 at 5:35 p.m.

    More choice means less traditional ad supported tv viewing.....period.

    DVR's, Xbox, Play Station, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone, iTouch, Galaxy Tablet, SMART TV's, Netflix, Hulu....

    Do you guys really think the younger subset and anyone for that matter is watching Ad supported tv as much or the same way they used to? It's virtually impossible to think that people sit around the Tube like drones the way they did for the last 50+ years. Let's be realistic.

  7. John Grono from GAP Research, February 27, 2013 at 9:05 p.m.

    As much ... pretty much so. Same way ... nothing like it.

  8. Michael Natale from MCM Media Sales, February 28, 2013 at 9:56 a.m.

    As way, Same quote Judd Nelson in the Breakfast CLub "Not even close, Bud!"....which is proven by the drop in ratings quarter after quarter, year after year. Why would networks scramble for retransmission fees if everything was hunky dory? Living room Television watching is not as immersive as it once was because of the iPad and Smartphone sitting right beside the viewer. Sorry man.

  9. Kim Barrington from the kimbro agency, February 28, 2013 at 10:37 a.m.

    The only reason we have not all given up our TV's is because the cable companies have a wrap on the viewing habits. Don't underestimate their power. I am in the segment marketers lovingly love to consider out of touch w/technology (and they are wrong about that too). We would all give up our televisions in a heartbeat if we could. If the cable and broadcast network TV would unbundle then you'd see big change. I'd subscribe to an HBO & Showtime pkg along w/Hulu plus and the cost was reasonable say $19.99 if I could see what I wanted to when it aired, or not. The Oscars was a perfect example. The eyeballs they lost were in the billions probably internationally b/c they didn't stream it live, not until the next day. BUT, they, the Academy and the advertisers would have gained exponentially if they would've let people watch on the internet while it was broadcast so people could tweet about it at the same time. Twitter is doing more for broadcast TV than broadcast TV is doing for itself. Check Superbowl results as an example. The Oscars would no doubt draw in a similar result. There is nothing more exciting these days than being on a mobile device watching a worldwide event and tweeting about it with the world. It's probably the most significant thing to happen to television since well, television. It's simply the powers that be who are refusing to make the changes. Not the viewing audience, regardless of age.

  10. John Grono from GAP Research, February 28, 2013 at 4:05 p.m.

    Michael, as a quantum 'TV Viewing' in total is pretty stable in virtually every country in the world. This quantum is spread across MANY more viewing options now however. That is why the reported PROGRAMME ratings are dropping - absolutely no argument there. However TV viewing as a total is pretty much the same. Think of it as many more people fishing in the same pond so everyone is catching less fish. And yes people (well some of them) watch with a tablet or smartphone device - but they still watch TV.

  11. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, February 28, 2013 at 10:15 p.m.

    John... It's been interesting to watch my 15 year old. He consumes a tremendous amount of YouTube and other video. But we should note this doesn't replace household TV viewing - it's additional and happens when my wife and I or his brother have the TV tied up. As soon as its free, he absolutely prefers the TV. This is consistent with studies showing that most of the mobile device viewing is in addition - viewing mobile video instead of a magazine, newspaper, website, or other activity.

  12. John Grono from GAP Research, February 28, 2013 at 10:43 p.m.

    Hi Doug. You make the important point that it is additional video consumption while maintaining a preference for the largest screen available (and at his age I bet sound quality is a key driver as well). So, your son seems to conform to his age-group archetype. What will be REALLY interesting is 10 years on when he is 25, working, with a partner etc. Will he still be YouTube bingeing or getting on with his life and moderating his existing consumption. I think the clue is in tracking the 16-24s consumption from when the Internet really bit in the mid to late 90s. Those 16-24 digerati were supposed to have been changed forever ... but they are now in the 25-39 cohort and seem to be consuming TV roughly the way 25-39s have for quite some time. Just saying ....

  13. Kim Barrington from the kimbro agency, March 1, 2013 at 9:43 a.m.

    I'd make the distinction that if someone is doing media buys now, it would be important to view the research as Mr. Grono is viewing it. But if you are looking into the future to determine where the market will be in order to plan for it, you need to understand that the networks, cable, and the viewing devices are in the process of being disrupted. I am a cord cutter, an early adopter to the viewing on whatever device I want, when I want regardless of when it is broadcast. While currently I represent a minority, within 10 years time, with the proper gizmo to make streaming seamless we will all be watching our shows ala cart. The hardware, a television set vs a laptop or an Ipad or phone will then vary considerably. The epic shows, sports for instance, or movies, or the Olympics will no doubt prefer a larger screen, but I watched the superbowl in a small screen on my laptop while I was tweeting in another screen. During the Oscars I had at least 5 different windows open, and wasn't watching the Oscars on TV at all, but could get some things depending upon the site I pulled up. The media is getting faster at presenting those shows to the device viewing audience in segments that we like to see, ie for Oscars it was New York Times that segmented alot of the red carpet fashions in photos as they were coming down the red carpet. During the Superbowl, people were tweeting segments of the halftime show or video of favorite commercials within minutes after it happened. And, my connections may be out to dinner or are at some other activity and they're tweeting about the game or something else that is a significant event so they are seeing it maybe in a restaurant's tv or from their own mobile device. Eventually it's not what we view or on what device we are viewing as much as how we are consuming it, ie in bits, on the fly, on our time, on a road trip, etc so how it is presented by the cable cos and by the networks will have to change to better represent our viewing habits. The hardware only facilitates that. My recommendations is that the industry get anthropologists on this to get it completely in order to help marketers understand what is happening. We are in the midst of this disruption. Don't miss it.

  14. John Grono from GAP Research, March 1, 2013 at 5:42 p.m.

    Kim, I agree. Fortunately we're not doing TV buys 10 years out - no-one's crystal ball is that good! OzTAM(Australia's TV ratings company) has recently done some small-scale research here in Australia where homes leaving the TV ratings panel have been given an iPad and the metering has been left in the home. The results are very interesting in that initially TV viewing declines (live, playback etc.). However after a month or so their viewing patterns are virtually indecipherable from the time before they got the iPad - with one exception, playback viewing. I know it is only a small sample and proves nothing, but it does accord with other ethnographic studies conducted. It's also a bit like my own household when we got a new Samsung SmartTv around 8 months ago. We connected it via WiFi, explored all the apps and options, we got the iPad using the local PayTV company's (excellent) ... and you know what ... we watch TV the way we did before we upgraded - just on a much better screen. In my opinion, the disruption will definitely fargment the market (i.e. lower programme ratings) but the quantum of TV viewing will remain pretty much the same but across multiple devices and the quantum of video viewing will increase as there will be more non-TV video sources. Just saying ...

  15. Kim Barrington from the kimbro agency, March 1, 2013 at 9:45 p.m.

    John, I'm not quite clear how you are viewing TV or how the sample viewed, was it with a cable package or no cable package (regardless of whether it was on a set top or a mobile device)? Meaning the sample, including yourself, was watching from Hulu or Netflix or directly from the network's websites? That is how we are viewing any shows and currently from our laptops. For the most part it's fine and we've done it for over a year now. Our viewing consumption is not down, but what we watch is much more selective, and ala carte and on our time. I just think it is cable programming that keeps people tethered to television sets. Once they unbundle some of those packages I think things will become more mobile. But I am not saying viewing will drop just what they watch and how they watch and even when they watch.

  16. John Grono from GAP Research, March 1, 2013 at 10:12 p.m.

    It was 'all viewing'. That is: Free-To-Air (analogue and digital, commerical and publicly-funded); community channels (low power); cable/satellite Subscription TV providers; IPTV; Other devices (XBox, AppleTV, THub etc). Basically anything that would qualify as 'broadcast' via any delivery device viewed on a TV screen. What is not included is 'brodcast TV' on computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones ; and 'non-broadcast TV' content (think YouTube) viewed on the TV screen.

    So in essence we have all bases covered with virtually all permutations of devices, but reporting only 'broadcast' content at this stage. The sample is around 10,000 people per day. Where services such as Hulu and NetFlix are geo-blocked clearly they have little local impact, but local equivalent services are included. Interestingly live and time-shifted broadcast TV accounts for around 80% of all usage of the TV - next step is to work out what the other 20% is, as well as getting 'broadcast TV' viewing that is not done on a TV (e.g. catch-up viewing on a tablet, computer or smartphone). I hope this helps clarify.

  17. Kim Barrington from the kimbro agency, March 2, 2013 at 10:36 a.m.

    You can get a lot of content straight from networks websites now which is convenient. I am a sample of 2 but we do about half the viewing straight from Fox, CBS, ABC, etc. Also both Hulu and Netflix are starting to create their own content ie House of Cards on Netflix and Hulu has several series that are short in terms of episodes but it is stellar content. Amazon is also entering that space (they just created an exclusive to air season 3...this qualifies as your catch up viewing).

    I understand this has a way to go but I have read where HBO is considering unbundling their service from cable as soon as they think their created content gets enough viewing to keep their revenue stable. The future is in that 20%.

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