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

Updated on 15/05/2024 

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: https://www.insiderintelligence.com/content/how-gen-z-consumes-media-5-charts

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.https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/234362/adults-media-use-and-attitudes-report-2022.pdf

The change in habits can be observed not only in homes but also in public spaces. For example, the Bouffes du Nord theater in Paris projects vertical TikTok videos, featuring mostly viral content, on their walls to entertain the audience before the play begins. 

 

Gen Z Bouffes du Nord theater’s stage with video projection before the play “The Imaginary Invalid” in 2024.

The change in habits can be observed not only in homes but also in public spaces. For example, the Bouffes du Nord theater in Paris projects vertical TikTok videos, featuring mostly viral content, on their walls to entertain the audience before the play begins. 

 

Picture: Bouffes du Nord theater’s stage with video projection before the play “The Imaginary Invalid” in 2024. 

Where does Gen Z spend time online?

[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. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2023/may/14/this-years-eurovision-is-most-watched-final-in-song-contests-history-say-bbc

Gen Z is highly engaged with technology and media, prioritizing activities like streaming video, music, and gaming. They are less interested in traditional TV and radio, instead favoring digital experiences like podcasts. Gen Z’s media habits reflect a preference for interactive content and seamless connectivity between devices. 

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. 

In terms of content, according to the latest study by Morning Consult [3], Generation Z prefers to get their news through video content, with 70% of 13-17 year-olds choosing videos as their main source of information. This age group is more interested in lifestyle and entertainment news, such as music, food, TV shows, and movies, as opposed to traditional news topics like politics and economics. The younger generation is also more likely to use social media to stay informed, showing a shift away from traditional news sources like television and cable channels. As Generation Z ages, their interest in health and well-being news is expected to increase, while their interest in finance and politics is likely to remain low.

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.

A recent article in The New York Times highlighted the growing trend among Americans of subscribing to, watching, and then canceling streaming services, a behavior that is becoming increasingly common.

With a multitude of streaming options available, over 29 million subscribers in the US have canceled three or more services in the past two years. This shift in consumer behavior signifies a move away from traditional provider loyalty towards a more impulsive and adaptable approach.

The impact of this trend extends beyond revenue and content investments for major media companies, as it poses challenges in retaining customers amidst rising competition. The key factor driving these changes is the content itself, as viewers seek engaging and compelling shows to keep them subscribed.

Gen Z, at the forefront of changing video consumption habits, values personalized, diverse content and looks for value in their streaming choices. Adapting to their preferences and the evolving market dynamics will be essential for industry players to stay competitive in the future.

Personalization & Ads: Watching content on their own terms.

Gen Zers are increasingly streaming video, but it’s also increasingly difficult to capture their attention. According to Emarketer, “It takes just 1.3 seconds for Gen Z to lose active attention for ads—less time than any other age group, according to a global study by Yahoo and OMD Worldwide. This means that branded content needs to grab their attention immediately, or risk being passed over for something else.”

Moreover, the study highlights the importance of creating compelling and engaging ad content that resonates with Gen Z, as traditional methods are at risk of being overlooked or ignored by this tech-savvy and discerning audience. That means that with Gen Z’s preference for tailored and personalized experiences, ads that are relevant, creative, and quickly captivating will be more effective in connecting with this audience and avoiding being disregarded or skipped entirely.

This year, Broadpeak showcased Dynamic Ad Insertion presented innovative solutions like the Click2 technology, reshaping interactive targeted advertising for video streaming services, aiming to enhance viewer engagement and monetization and the Spot2Spot feature, allowing for live addressable TV monetization at the spot level. Through a partnership with TF1, Broadpeak is driving advancements in ad insertion within the video streaming industry, offering tools for video service providers to create engaging ad content that appeals to Gen Z viewers and maximizes revenue opportunities in the evolving streaming landscape.

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[4]. These behaviors persisted despite the end of the pandemic and represent a massive shift in the global television audience.

The massive growth of streaming video, initially driven by the pandemic, has now slowed down as numerous platforms and content options saturate the market with OTT subscriptions. This poses new challenges in terms of monetization.

Different segments of the streaming universe exhibit varying consumption patterns, with a shift towards free content and an increase in viewership on platforms like YouTube and social media. This emphasizes the need for platforms to target diverse audiences through tailored content to further expand their user base.

What do Gen Zers want?

The new habits of the younger generation, as indicated in reports and research, are easily noticeable when observing the youth in our surroundings, and Generation Alpha (born from approximately 2010 to 2025) seems to maximize the trends seen in Gen Z. They often stream vertical videos from social media platforms designed for smartphones on their TVs, spend hours watching live video game streamers, and engage in “video reactions.” The shift in viewing habits exemplifies the evolving preferences and behaviors of today’s younger generation, reflecting a digital-centric lifestyle that continues to shape the way they consume entertainment.

Generation Alpha watch video
The new generations can view the "vertical content" from platforms like TikTok on the horizontal TVs in their homes.
What Generation Alpha watch
Video game live streaming is a very popular content.

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 interests.

That is. Gen Z is changing the streaming landscape by prioritizing access to diverse content, seeking personalized experiences, and being open to new revenue models like advertising. Streaming platforms need to adapt to meet the unique preferences of this generation in order to stay competitive in the evolving market.

A recent survey of 2,503 adults who stream video at least one hour a week from December 2023 to January 2024 revealed that more than half of Gen Z and Millennials feel they are overspending on streaming services each month. The data shows that these younger generations respectively spend $57 and $45 a month on streaming, while they spend significantly less on TV subscriptions compared to older generations. As streaming services continue to raise prices, the majority of viewers prefer ad-supported or free streaming options over paying extra for ad-free content. The survey also found that many individuals cancel premium memberships to access more content, indicating a shift towards seeking value in the face of rising costs in the streaming industry.

Gen Z and millennials say streaming costs them too much
Gen Z and millennials say streaming costs them too much

Gen 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. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2023/may/14/this-years-eurovision-is-most-watched-final-in-song-contests-history-say-bbc

[3] Surveys conducted from October 16 to 19, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,207 US adults, and from October 16 to 28, 2023, among a representative sample of 1,002 members of Generation Z aged 13 to 26.

[4] 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. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2023/may/14/this-years-eurovision-is-most-watched-final-in-song-contests-history-say-bbc

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