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Horowitz: Young People Choosing Internet Over Traditional Television for News Consumption

As the protests and unrest over the death of George Floyd continues to play out on television screens, a new report from Horowitz Research underscores a growing disconnect between young viewers and the traditional news media.

Viewers 18-34 years of age get 53% of their news consumption from the internet compared to 21% for traditional television, according to Horowitz’s State of Viewing & Streaming 2020 study.

Young people question whether broadcast networks and cable news services like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC are providing a complete picture of the stories that they cover, according to the survey. Only 33% of 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed believe that television is the best way to get in-depth news reporting and analysis, said Horowitz. In comparison, 56% of adults 25-54 and 64% of adults 35+ offer a more favorable view of traditional television news.

“Can the major broadcast and cable outlets rise to the challenge of providing truth and perspective and less sensationalism?,” said Howard Horowitz, president of Horowitz Research. “Just like social media has provided new ways of exposing discrimination and misconduct, so too has it given young people a new way to view and understand the world around them, providing validation of what is really happening and holding major news outlets more accountable.”

Horowitz also reported that 58% of TV content viewers believe that the media plays a very big role in reinforcing stereotypes, and 68% say that they feel it is important that the media represent diverse people and communities in the U.S. in ways that challenge and break stereotypes.

“Poignantly, we are hearing from staff, family members, and social media that young people feel that their parents and older family members, who rely heavily on TV news, are not getting a well-rounded picture of the protests and why they are happening,” said Horowitz senior VP of insights and strategy Adriana Waterston. “Showing looting and sensationalizing violence creates more fear and obscures the issues of police brutality and persistent systemic racism that these young people are seeing, experiencing, and feeling.”

Related: Streaming Services Lead Broadcast Networks and Cable in Program Diversity

The report comes as the entertainment industry continues to use social media and traditional television platforms to reach out to African-Americans in light of the death of Floyd, who was killed while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.

Streaming service UMC on Tuesday posted on Instagram its support of the African-American community. “There are no words to describe the pain that we feel. As Black people, it is an unspoken language that only we as a community truly understand. We are beyond tired. We have had MORE than enough,” stated the AMC-owned service.

BET on Tuesday announced that it would be developing a series of specials addressing the issues facing Black America, including Justice Now: A BET Town Hall later this month as well as a June 19 BET News Presidential Forum in which the network has invited both President Donald Trump and Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden to discuss issues and concerns of the African-American community, according to network officials. 

“We stand in steadfast solidarity with George Floyd’s family, the many victims of racist brutality, and those who are using their voices and platforms to challenge it. There are no easy solutions for these systemic issues of racism, injustice, and trauma. BET is leveraging every platform and resource at our disposal to support and inform our community and help identify strategies and viable solutions in this time of crisis,” said BET President Scott Mills in a statement. "We are committed to using our unique ability to mobilize our powerful, cross-sector coalition of partners to help drive critical outcomes and amplify leading voices in the Black community.”

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.