Youth’s watching habits : How is Gen Z consuming video?

You probably already heard the term Gen Z. It’s short for Zoomers and aims to define the generation born in the mid-to-late 1990s to early 2010s. That is, the generation between 8 and 23 years old now, preceding the millennial generation, and the one taking the lead in a few years. And what are they leading? A new era of how consumers engage with and demand their favorite video content. This new era is dominated by video streaming on social media and personalization.

How Gen Z Watch Content?

As the first generation to have grown up with digital media, Gen Z has considerably different video and TV content consumption habits than other generations. They were “born online”. They didn’t see the transition from the analog to the digital world, meaning that the distinction between  “irl” (in real life) and online life is progressively stopping making sense. Most of them spend more than one hour online as part of their daily activities.


Average time spent on social media gen Z
Image 1:

In a recent white paper, Magnifi [1](with SportsPro) identifies that “Viewing is becoming an individual activity. The days of a family sitting together around a communal television set, dictated by a predetermined schedule in the living room are long gone. Everyone in a household is consuming content on their own device according to their own timetable. Many viewers are now ‘second screeners’ – accessing multiple forms of entertainment or sporting events at the same time. »

It’s not unusual to see a group of people, even if interacting with each other, being everyone on their phones as it’s becoming the favorite device to watch videos:

internet users only smartphone
how many people watch live streams
Images 2 and 3: Ofcom. Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2022.

Compared to prior generations, Gen Zers are more inclined to watch streaming services like Netflix rather than traditional television. They are also less committed TV watchers. They are more inclined to fast-forward through and only watch their favorite scenes or the most well-liked episodes.

They prefer short-form videos and they are more prone to multitask while watching, often switching between different devices and screens at the same time. But what’s more important to retain is this shift towards streaming pushed the audiences into an active or engaged viewing state.

A Fully-Engaged Viewing State

Not only can viewers choose what and when to watch, but digital media consumption has also led to interactive content offering more control. For example, YouTube allows users to comment, create playlists and produce their own content. Many streaming services offer personalized recommendations based on user preferences.

This trend towards greater engagement is expected to continue as technology advances and more consumers opt for streaming services. As a result, content creators and streaming platforms must focus on creating interactive experiences that are tailored to individual user interests.

This means developing features like live chat, social media integrations, personalized recommendations, and more in order to keep viewers engaged with their video content. By doing so, streaming services can continue to foster an engaging environment for their viewers while also providing them with the ultimate entertainment experience.

Personalization & Contextualization: watching content on their own terms.

Gen Zers are increasingly streaming video, but it’s also increasingly difficult to capture their attention. They consume content on their own terms, which means that more than ever, a tailored experience is essential to keep the young audience.

To address this, many networks have created profiles on social media built especially for Gen Z viewers where they can share exclusive clips or sneak peeks of upcoming episodes. This enables Gen Zers to watch their preferred shows whenever they want, without having to wait for the next episode to air.

COVID-19 Pandemic spread new streaming habits.

Streaming was growing before 2020, but had a real boom during the COVID-19 Pandemic. New technologies, new streaming services in the market, and especially the pandemic, have inserted those new habits into the previous generations too. Even those generations used to “appointment viewing” got accustomed to the convenience and flexibility of a tailed experience of on-demand streaming.

People normally don’t want, or can’t, make time to watch a show at the time of its original broadcast[2]. These behaviors persisted despite the end of the pandemic and represent a massive shift in the global television audience.

What do Gen Zers want?

We conducted an informal survey with our kids and their friends aged 16-23 in the US, France & Brazil. The results confirmed what researchers have been showing about changing video consumption habits – most opting for other screens over TV sets, with smartphones being a main source of screen time outside of the living room.

where and what device Gen Z use to stream video

They also confirmed their preference for social media, especially the social media that are video driving like TikTok and YouTube.

What Gen Z watch TV Video Stream

When asked about what they would like to see improved on the platforms where they watch video content, the group was unanimous in pointing out they like to see improvements in the algorithms or analytics that define the content or ads that they watch. They seem accustomed to having a viewing experience customized to their personal preferences, they want this experience to get better. They want a more transparent and sophisticated algorithm.

With the boom of streaming services, now the challenge is how to stay competitive and monetize the service. Netflix launched its Ad-supported plans and models like FAST models are rapidly gaining ground. Advertisements can be a real annoyance for viewers. But the fact is that Gen Zers don’t seem to care, or even like it when the ad is related to their interests.

From Brazil, an 18 y.o. live-sports fan said: “I think it could have better filtering of content that really interests us, it could also reduce the number of advertisements or at least show advertisements for products related to our interests.”

From the USA, one of our colleague’s daughter said that what bothered her was “the constant ads. I would prefer if streaming services gave you the option to watch a 3-minute ad before your show and then didn’t have any other for the rest of the episode or movie you were watching.”

Not only for ads, in their responses, but they were also unanimous in expressing their desire for a better-curated experience in general. They want more accurate recommendations of content that meet their interestsGen Z is about to get their own purchasing power, and the decisions they will make when it comes to choosing how to consume video can’t be ignored by anyone who wants to stay in the game in the next few years…Are you ready for Gen Z ?

[1] Magnifi Whitepaper 2023. It’s Gen A-Z, not just Gen Z: How AI highlights help the sports industry serve its most important audiences.p.8

[2] It’s of course not the case of sports events that brings large numbers of viewers creating peaks and challenges to streamings with quality. But not only sports, many other live events brings millions of people to an appointment view. The last Eurovision Song Content counted with a final watched by 11 million viewers.

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