TV still favourite, as study debunks youth viewing myths
Staff Reporter | On 17, Jun 2015Reading time: 4 mins
When it comes to the cool kids, it’s easy to stereotype. They don’t watch TV anymore. They only use Netflix. They spend all day on YouTube. It’s easy to make sweeping generalisations. A new piece of research aims to debunk these misperceptions, providing an insight into what exactly people – in particular, young people – do.
The study, conducted by youth research specialists Platypus on behalf of Thinkbox, confirms that the generation of 16 to 24s’ video diet differs from the UK average.
Traditional TV is less popular, making up 65 per cent of their video consumption, compared to 81 per cent of that of overall Brits. VOD usage, be it pay-per-view or subscription (such as Netflix and Amazon Prime), is twice as high too.
YouTube, for example, accounts for 7 per cent of their video consumption, compared to 3.5 per cent. Netflix and other SVOD services account for 4 per cent, compared to 2 per cent for overall viewers.
“14 to 24s have more free time than most and so have a broader spectrum of video viewing that stretches from highly immersive viewing to boredom-busting,” says the report. “Online video like YouTube tends to sit further along the spectrum as an easy way to kill some free time.”
Unlike traditional TV, YouTube vlogs also help to fulfil a need that is unique to younger viewers.
“From the age of 14 to 16 young people are forming their identity, trying to determine who it is they want to become,” notes the report. “As a result, during this time they are very keen to connect with people of a similar age, who they can relate to and take guidance from.”
But that is not to say they only watch things online: while lower than the national average, telly still makes up two-thirds of their viewing diet, a healthy portion by anyone’s standards.
Indeed, it is easy to overstate the growth of VOD: SVOD usage is rising rapidly, but still only accounts for a fraction of total habits. Porn, for example, is more popular than Netflix: adult content makes up 7 per cent of viewing among 16 to 24s, above the 4 per cent accounted for by SVOD viewing. It is also equal with the amount of “other online video” content watched and videos on YouTube.
A decline in TV ratings, meanwhile, is not necessarily a result of young audiences turning off their TV sets and switching on their tablets.
Adam Crozier, the chief executive of ITV, recently noted at an event that while Brits watch an average of 3.41 hours of TV per day, down from the previous year, live viewing is roughly the same as it was in 2005, with the current decrease partly a result of more unemployed people finding a job. It is also worth remembering that half of all 16 to 24s have an account registered with Channel 4, a sign that although 4oD (now All 4) is popular, they are still attached to traditional broadcasters.
One factor that should also be considered is access to the main screen in the house: younger audiences are often often constrained in terms of control of the living room set, thanks to competing demands from parents, siblings or friends in shared accommodation. As a result, 16 to 24s tend to watch more video on mobile devices.
“There has been an immense amount of speculation about how younger audiences are watching TV and newer forms of video. This research shows that newer forms of video have important roles to play in young people’s lives,” comments Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox, but adds that TV remains “by far their favourite medium”.
“Different video fulfils different needs and they co-exist happily,” he concludes.
A similar over-generalisation can occur with older audiences too: TV still makes up 81 per cent of overall viewing consumption, despite the millions signed up to Netflix and other SVOD services. Adult video content, meanwhile, makes up 5 per cent of viewing, down from the 7 per cent among younger audiences but still more popular than the 4 per cent watching “other online video”, the 3.5 per cent watching YouTube and the 2 per cent using SVOD. To put it another way, before rushing to an assumption about audience behaviour, remember this: porn is more popular than Netflix. And that remains true, no matter what age you are.