'Practical' Millennials Not Tuning Into TV

MTV Networks last week showcased five bright and optimistic teens to support its recent millennials research study.

The panel of four females and one male who ranged in age from 13-17 perfectly fit the characteristics of today’s millennials revealed in “The New Millennials Will Keep Calm and Carry On” study’s findings: they are more resilient adaptable, practical, technologically literate and less idealistic than their predecessors as they prepare for an uncertain employment and financial future.

What the study didn’t report and what MTV officials may not have been prepared for is what these future consumers had to say about their television viewing habits. When asked how they watched their favorite shows, basically all five teens favored digital options rather than linear TV.

“I don’t think I’ve ever watched a [scheduled] show on actual television,” said 13-year old Alice Westerman, who added that she watches all of her favorite shows on the web via Netflix.

Angela Nguyen, 17, said she mostly waits until the latest episodes of her favorite shows are available on Netflix and Hulu before watching it on her own time. James De Rosa-Farag, also 17, actually does watch traditional television at times, electing to watch movies with his “old-fashioned” father on premium services like Cinemax.

Of course the opinions of a handful of teens doesn’t spell the inevitable doom of traditional television as we know it, especially since time spent watching traditional TV  increased slightly in first quarter 2013, to 157 hours and 32 minutes per month from 155 hours a year ago, according to Nielsen. 

But it should raise a few eyebrows for cable networks and distributors about how best to reach the next generation of cable subscribers.  “It does speak to the trend of they want it across all of our platforms,” said MTV president Stephen Friedman, who recently oversaw the launch of the millennial-targeted network’s viewer-authenticated app. “I think the more we can make [content] available on VOD, online and through mobile, the happier our audience is going to be.”

Indeed, the quicker the industry can promote a cohesive, easy to use TV Everywhere product to consumers, the better chance they have to capture the hearts and minds young millennials like Alice before she and her generation are lost forever to the industry’s competitors.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.