How Generation Z Will Shape Our Media Consumption Habits

Admit it, you have totally watched a movie over someone else’s shoulder.

Brands should not discount the youngest members of our connected society.

Data measurement provider Nielsen’s quarterly review of audience viewing habits and device ownership said that people classified as Generation Z have taken advantage of the wide range of media content consumption options available. According to the first quarter 2017 Nielsen Total Audience Report, Generation Z is now the largest segment of the U.S. viewing audience and accounts for 26% of all persons in homes with a television.

People who fall into this generational category—Nielsen defines them as those born between 1997 and 2015—are morelikely to not only own a device such as a smartphone or gaming console, but also have access to other platforms provided by higher earning members of the household.

Over 97% of people Generation Z have a smartphone. Around 80% also own a tablet or similar device. In addition, 73% of Generation Z “own” subscription video on demand (SVoD) services … although Nielsen noted that these services are likely paid for by another member of the household.

“While it’s long been known that age and life stage are instrumental in how media is consumed, the rise of Generation Z as the largest and most diverse generation presents a unique opportunity on the horizon for marketers,” Nielsen said. “Couple this with the fact that new technology and forms of content that are slowly being adopted by Americans of all ages and it becomes even more paramount to know how consumers are engaging with devices and platforms.”

Media Content Consumption Habits Are Hard To Break

Nielsen states that the combination of the two youngest generational categories—Generation Z and Millennials—now make up about 48% of the overall U.S. viewing population. Both of these generations have similar tastes and requirements for emerging technology. These desires increase in impact as the generations become larger and more powerful segments of the workforce.

As you might expect from a generation that was born and raised in the connected society, Millennials and Generation Z are not tied down to any one medium. Unlike the so-called Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers and Generation X, Generation Z has never known a media landscape where consumption options are not fragmented.

Nielsen defines Millennials as people born from 1980 to 1996, but generational boundaries can be quite fungible.The generation now make up 22% of the U.S. viewing population and has changed how people consume video content. Millennials tend to watch on multiple devices and at times of their choosing as opposed to “linear” television or live programming. Millennials truly became the first binge-watch generation.

Older generations grew up with limited options for media consumption. Around 86% of people own smartphones, although multimedia device penetration is increasing among Baby Boomers with year-on-year growth of 29%. On-demand video platforms are growing in popularity—51% of people subscribe to a service in the U.S.—but more than 80% of Baby Boomers own a DVD player.

“Across all generations, however, we see different preferences among media device users. Baby Boomers and Generation X are heavier users of traditional television and radio sources while younger generations are heavier users of digital platforms,” said Nielsen’s senior vice president of Audience Insights Peter Katsingris. “One common factor is the use and presence of smartphones which remains high across all generations. Regardless of age, it’s one device that all generations never seem to be without.”

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David Bolton
Former ARC Writer
Reading time: 5 min

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