GenZ Watching TV From Before School To Falling Asleep At Night

DEFYMedia’s previous Acumen Report Constant Content reported how digital media attracts more youth for more hours than TV, and digital celebrities have greater appeal and relevance for youth than traditional TV and movie stars. This year. This year, the study found that video is not just entertainment. With its broad content offerings and on-the-go accessibility, video is meeting needs beyond amusement and passing the time. Video is educational, stress-relieving, and, most importantly, keeps youth connected and included among their peers.

And, the study found that, while youth don’t like watching ads any more than adults, not all advertising leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. Advertising is onerous only when it’s a barrier to fulfilling needs and, in the right context, today’s youth are quite willing to consume the ads being served.

According to DefyMedia, focused on findings from its new annual Acumen Report showing where and when13-24 year old consumers are watching, what they’re willing to pay for, and what ads they are willing to watch. And, they’re on “watch” from the start of their day (before school or work) straight through to the evening hours (while falling asleep), with barely a break in between.

Additionally, the “Youth Video Diet” reports that over 40% engage while at school or on the job.  Video platforms provide the connections they can’t live without, 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.

Reasons for Watching Video

Reason For Watching

% of Respondents

Boredom killer/Time filler


Keep up with shows, sports, YouTubers, etc


Stress relief/wind down from day


Stay up to date on videos, events


Spend time with others/family time


Mood lifter/changer


Learn how-to (do something)


Fall asleep


Background noise


Power up/get energized


Source Acumen Report: Youth Video Diet, April 2016

Andy Tu, DEFY Media’s EVP of Marketing, points out that  “…the industry has experienced an explosion of new video platforms… (increasing) the total addressable market for video viewing… (and raising) competition for the attention of young viewers… ”

Video consumption is now an essential part of younger audience’s daily intake, says the report, with a growing supply of media platforms catering to their content cravings. 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% vs. 76% for smartphone).   

Among the most highly viewed video platforms, the report shows that YouTube reigns with 85% of respondents stating it’s their #1 go-to. Netflix falls just behind at 66%, TV at 62%, and Facebook, 53%.

Digital Dominates The Menu


% Viewing





Cable/satellite TV














Digital buy/rent








HBO Now /




Sports apps


Sling TV


Source: DefyMedia, April 2016

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%, Netflix at 51%, with social media sources (net of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Tumblr) coming close at 48% as video play significantly rises on these platforms. TV falls to almost half that of YouTube, with only 36% stating they can’t live without the traditional tube.  

Sources That They “Can’t Live Without”

  • YouTube   67%
  • Netflix   51%
  • Social Media    48%
  • Cable/satellite TV   36%

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, says the report. For Facebook, more consumers (60%) use the platform for social and video vs. 40% 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, and where Twitter and Tumblr have also grabbed a small portion of that pie (31% and 30%, respectively) .

The report highlights that only 14% of the respondents are primarily watching videos of family and friends on social media. 24% say they watch mostly videos featuring their favorite 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, half that figure 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 equaled 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.

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.

In the household, 38% 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% say there are less expensive options, 24% are just not interested in the content TV offers. 

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, says the report. 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 favorite personalities can earn.  63% agree that digital celebrities need ads on their channels to make a living and a significant 58% say they don’t mind watching ads to support them.

 But, how those advertisements are delivered matters. While pre-roll continues to drop in favor (53% are ok with that 1-minute spot while still preferring a 15- second commercial which gets that figure to 80%), but it’s the well produced branded content or non-invasive intro/outro that rises to the top with this group.  89% say the 5 second intro featuring a brand sponsor is always or sometimes “OK” (88% for the end screen.)

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