Note to Marketers: The Shift to Streaming Happens at Age 18

Millennials are used to getting what they want, when they want it. They get immediate answers to questions thanks to Google and Bing. They read the news as it happens on Facebook and Twitter. And they watch TV shows on their own schedules thanks to the wide variety of streaming options available to them.

Millennials are nearly as likely to stream TV shows (65% do so in a typical week) as they are to watch TV on a set (68% do so in a typical week), according to recent Ypulse research. What's more, nearly a quarter (22%) watches TV via a mobile phone or tablet every week.

The numbers get really interesting when those in question turn 18. Some 71% of millennials age 18 and older watch TV via streaming, compared to 66% who watch on a regular TV set. By comparison, those under age 18 are far more likely to watch on a set (76%) than via streaming (49%). Meanwhile, mobile viewing jumps from 16% for under-18s to 24% among over-18s.

Multiple factors go into the swing shift at 18. First, older millennials are more likely to own laptop computers and smartphones than their younger counterparts. Having a laptop vs. a desktop means they can watch wherever they're comfortable on a couch rather than at a desk or table. It's also easier to hook a laptop rather than a desktop into a TV for streaming because proximity is irrelevant with a laptop, which can be relocated if necessary.

Second, older millennials' schedules are more hectic. Not only do they have more demanding classes or jobs (or both), they also have the freedom to go out with friends in the evening, making it more difficult to plan their schedules around TV shows.

Thus, more than three-quarters of older millennials (76%) stream TV shows, compared to 60% of younger millennials. Conversely, younger millennials more commonly stream music videos (76%), which 66% of older millennials also stream.

Since they're already online, it's not surprising that 25% check in to TV shows via social media. Social TV adds a new layer to watching programs, allowing viewers to connect with friends who are watching the same shows, as well as to meet new people who are into the same shows they are.

Watching with others and talking about the shows they love are among the few reasons millennials still tune in to live TV.