Millennials Don't Care About Grandpa's TV

For many Boomers and, I suppose, some Gen Xers, it was a Very Important Week in Television. The May 17 series finale of “Mad Men” and David Letterman’s final bow on “The Late Show” on May 20 marked #TheEndofanEra. I know this because Very Influential Media peeps that I follow on Twitter told me so. Meanwhile, when I talked to, like, actual peeps IRL about these two Very Important Television Milestones, most of them were kinda sorta meh about the whole thing. I guess some of us have had more than our fill of “Mad Men”’s incessant white whine and Letterman’s tired old-white-guy snark, amirite?

Despite ratings highs for both “The Late Show With David Letterman,” which drew 13.7 million viewers, and “Mad Men,” which drew 3.3 million same-day viewers and reportedly earned respectable ratings among the ever-so-coveted 18 - 49 demographic, the media and cultural importance of these two Very Important Television Milestones didn’t seem to register much for Gen Y viewers. I know this because I asked a coupla Millennials that I know (i.e., my nephew, who’s a junior in college; a few former work colleagues in their mid- and late-20s; and my neighbor, a 30-something stay-at-home mom) what they thought about #TheEndofanEra and #ThanksDave, and they mostly shrugged or replied by texting me random emojis.



While “Mad Men” was undoubtedly a brilliantly crafted period piece and David Letterman’s subversive brand of humor was arguably groundbreaking back in the day, these two Very Important Television Milestones failed to capture the attention and imagination of Gen Y in the same way that they did for Boomers and Gen Xers because a) Millennials don’t watch TV on TV like the olds did and still do and b) media on-demand and mobile have transformed the meaning of Very Important Television Milestones for Millennials, who more often than not consume time-shifted “television” programming online, via mobile devices, and in bite-sized chunks, instead of watching appointment television like older generations, who generally watch more traditionally programmed television.

Which brings us back to this week’s Very Important Television Milestones. I asked my Millennial nephew if he planned to watch the final episodes of either “Mad Men” (“maybe when it’s on Netflix”) or “The Late Show” (“probably only clips on YouTube”), and his responses were typical for his generation. The sense of urgency to view programming while it first airs or even in its entirety doesn’t seem to exist for Millennials. Access to programming on Gen Y’s own terms trumps the need to acquire next-day water-cooler fodder. Why bother slogging through an entire episode when you can simply look at the best scenes from the “Mad Men” finale in a series of animated GIFs on BuzzFeed? And why waste a night watching “The Late Show” on TV when you can look back at when David Letterman gave zero f***s via Reddit?

For Millennials, the idea of “being there” when Very Important Television Milestones occur may seem somewhat quaint. I asked my nephew what television milestone he thought his generation would wax nostalgic about in 20 or 30 years and he said, “It’ll probably be something that was created by an ordinary person not by a celebrity, it’ll probably be something online or mobile, and it definitely won’t be something on TV.”

6 comments about "Millennials Don't Care About Grandpa's TV".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Vicky Hastings from Maxwell PR + Engagement, May 22, 2015 at 12:02 p.m.

    Well said!

    Vicky Hastings

  2. Suzanne Sell from Independent, May 26, 2015 at 11:58 a.m.

    Another focus group of two....Interview about 600 more and I'll take you seriously.

  3. Madalyn Mako from WNET, May 26, 2015 at 12:23 p.m.

    Suzanne, that's what I wanted to say too.

    "I know this because I asked a coupla..." (emphasis mine) I had a hard time continuing to read from there. An analysis of 18-34 ratings for Live or Live+3 would have been interesting.

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 26, 2015 at 1:13 p.m.

    When are the people who spout  the "Millenials don't watch linear TV" stuff going to take the trouble to check the facts before making their latest misleading pronouncements. Yep, 18-34s watch less TV than 55+  folks, as has been known ever since the first demographics about viewing came to light in the early 1960s. And yes, the 18-34s----on average----are more into alternate sources of video content. But something in the vicinity of 75-85% of their TV consumption is still to "linear TV"---I don't have the time to look up the exact figure right now---so the notion that they can't be reached  via their "grandfathers'" sets is wishful dreaming.

    Another fact is that the main driver of VOD subscriptions isn't age. Rather, its income, with age a factor but not the dominant one. Consequently, there are slightly more homes whose head is aged 55+ with one or more of these services than those with heads under 35, while the largest group is smack in the middle---the 35-54s, who, on average, have larger current incomes than either the very young or the older groups.

  5. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, May 26, 2015 at 2:27 p.m.

    A focus group of 2 is anemic however the numbers of Bit Torrent downloads is compelling for a group that wants content when they want it - which means not curated and no ads. Welcome to the Millenial world.

  6. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, May 26, 2015 at 5:24 p.m.

    "Millenials". I love that lumping of an entire range of personalities, typologies, individuals, and interests into one big if age defines people more than their own individuality. Here's what's really, really wrong with this post. Yes, it's a focus group of two (absurd). But even worse, it's friends connected to you. And that means they are culturally most likely to say what you already think.

    After all, how many people that you know watch 30 or more hours of TV per week? That's what I thought. Not many. I certainly don't personally know them. But that means there's a lot of people I DON'T know that are far more influential about TV.

    And that's the case here. What marks "millenials"? Nothing really - only age. There's a huge range of millenials and they watch traditional TV, your self-defined "grandpa's TV" etc... The only show that I like that my millenial children won't watch? Antiques Roadshow. But my wife won't watch it either - so that suggests it's NOT a millenial issue but one of personal interest.

    So, basically, there's no basis here for broad declamations. Let's just move along.

Next story loading loading..