Where Have All The Young Men Gone?

This past summer young men saw 24 percent fewer films than a year ago. For the movie industry, which depends so heavily on one demographic in the summer, this statistic could be cause for some alarm. But given the fickleness of that young group--and perhaps of the research itself--no one should jump to conclusions.

What were young men doing? According to a survey by Online Testing exchange, they were watching DVDs, playing video games and surfing the Web. Another possible reason for the shrinking of this audience: Not enough big, high-wow, tech-laden films--the kind that young men tend to flock to--made it to summer screens as in years past.

If you are a TV executive, perhaps you might be concerned. A few years ago young male viewers in September seemingly disappeared, as there were steep drops in the PUT (persons using television) numbers. The reason? Young males were playing more video games, watching DVDs, and surfing the web. They still seemed to be going to the movies, though.



Some research executives back then blamed Nielsen's methodology. Those researchers did account for the rise of alternative media, which continues to eat into traditional media such as TV. But researchers said that trend is more gradual and predictable; sudden 10% to 15% overall drops in TV population viewership just don't occur.

Weirdly, the decline in numbers didn't last--young men came back to TV after a couple of months, with a return to previous viewing levels. If all this doesn't force you to shrug your shoulders, here's another bit of data to complicate the picture still further. A Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst, Michael Pachter, said U.S. retail sales of console video games are expected to fall 20 percent in September, to $365 million--down from $458 million a year earlier.

Maybe all this is just a September thing. The same analyst expects "dramatic" growth for video games in the big holiday buying season. So let me get this straight. Young men weren't going to the summer movies, and weren't buying video games. This seems to suggest what researchers sometimes say--that young men are price-sensitive when it comes to entertainment.

"This (group), more acutely than any other, is weighing the value of the in-theater experience compared to many other lower-cost, more immediate and convenient entertainment options," Shelley Zalis, co-founder of OTX, said in a statement.

All this means one thing--young men will be using cheaper forms of readily available entertainment, like TV, come this fall. That is, if they have paid their cable or satellite bill. That is, if they don't change their minds.

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