Millennials are killing everything we love, it seems. They are taking down industries ranging from the defenseless diamond industry to the ever-stable homeowning industry. It seems this generation is on a rampage to destroy every economic pillar they can set their hands on.
What’s their next target? Cable television. Their weapon of choice? Cord-cutting.
Cord-cutting is the practice of replacing your cable bill with over-the-air services like Hulu or Netflix, and it is happening at an increasing rate. It’s estimated that nearly 50 million people will have cut the cord from cable or satellite subscriptions by 2021. So many people have started dropping their cable subscriptions that a leading research firm had to revise its cord-cutter forecast up by 25 percent.
Yet, despite all of the doom and gloom, millennials still love TV. Many people think that millennials are not watching TV content anymore, but according to the VAB Report, millennials watch three times as much TV as previous generations. The same report revealed that nearly 86 percent of the 25-to-34 demographic still watches primetime live TV programming such as live sports or TV series.
Many cable companies are looking to lay the blame on millennials because they have become a trendy scapegoat for struggling industries. It is true that there has been a seismic shift in viewing habits across the United States, and that everything from the Oscars to the NFL are suffering from lower ratings. However, smartphones, streaming services like Netflix, and outdated viewer measurements are the primary reasons why TV is experiencing declining ratings.
Millennials grew up when online streaming became popular. They are the beneficiaries of the trend, rather than the cause of the trend itself.
What’s Driving Millennials to Become Cord-Cutters?
From an economic perspective, cord-cutting makes a lot of sense. Why pay for cable packages chock full of TV channels you never watch when you could pay a fraction of your cable bill to access the same TV shows and networks à la carte instead? Wouldn’t you want to save $85 per month by cutting the cord?
Millennials still want entertaining TV shows, but they don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it. This is a generation of convenience-seeking, screen-loving people. They value convenience over service, so they prefer to watch their shows on mobile and streaming devices.
Most millennials prefer watching online because it gives them the flexibility to control their time and not be beholden to a TV schedule. Nearly 55 percent of millennials’ TV viewing time is watching content after it has aired. They want to watch TV but on their own time.
TV networks have taken notice and started offering mobile applications that provide their TV series on-demand. Networks like CBS and CW are actively embracing the cord-cutting exodus by offering their TV content online for free or through subscription services like CBS All-Access.
Unfortunately, most other network apps still require a cable subscription, but some networks like FX offer a $5.99 subscription, similar to Hulu and Netflix. There are even entire services that offer TV subscriptions à la carte, such as Sling TV, which offers a $25 a month package.
There are so many TV streaming options out there that soon, much of what we watch will be à la carte. Millennials grew up in a time of economic downturn, so finding efficient and economic ways to watch their favorite TV shows comes naturally. In fact, 47 percent of millennials and Gen Z do not even watch traditional cable TV anymore.
Conversely, millennials actually prefer TV viewing almost six times more than digital media. The advent of new technologies like 5G may bring about the death of cable TV, but TV content will still be as popular as ever.
Millennials Still Love TV, and They Talk About It Constantly
About 89 percent of millennials enjoy TV more than they enjoy streaming on other internet-connected devices, but most viewing is on-demand. Recent lower ratings for marquee TV events fuels the perception that millennials are tuning out, but social engagement surrounding events (such as the Oscars) is at an all-time high.
Engagement statistics are key to understanding millennials’ love affair with TV content. Entire ecosystems of blogs, social media posts, reviews, and recaps have evolved online alongside TV series. Social media is a huge part of what drives this relationship.
Forty-five percent of millennials say they share, post, and tweet about their favorite TV series. Twenty-seven percent of YouTube’s top 50 videos are devoted to TV content. This ecosystem acts as a positive feedback loop where engagement online drives the viewership for new episodes.
Many in the media industry refer to this as a “360-degree relationship” that cements the emotional bond between viewer and TV content. Previous generations would simply watch the show when it aired and wait until next week for the next episode to air. Now you can go online and find an almost unlimited amount of content surrounding your favorite shows, not to mention the ability to rewatch previous episodes on-demand.
Millennials also love specific networks more than others. HGTV is a prime example: Millennials adore HGTV because of its manufactured drama and the ability to “window shop” for homes they might be able to purchase in the future. Shows like House Hunters have sprouted entire meme cultures around the comedic disparity between homebuyers’ jobs and their unrealistic budgets.
How Emotions Can Affect Brands’ TV Ad Effectiveness
Millennials are far more emotionally attached to their TV content than previous generations. That’s good news for brands.
Emotion drives everything in advertising. An emotional reaction to the content surrounding an ad can influence the reaction to the ad itself. Consider that 40 percent of millennials have visited destinations they saw on TV, and 43 percent have gone to restaurants and purchased products shown on their TV according to the VAB Report.
TV provides real-time, shared emotional experiences that doesn’t exist on other platforms. There is something about being obligated to watch a show at a certain time that carries a connective allure—one that flourishes in the social media age. Some bars even hold “viewing parties” for shows like Game of Thrones, where the primary draw is watching the show with other patrons at the time the show airs.
The important takeaway is that millennials gravitate towards engaging and emotional content—that is, content that strikes them emotionally. Over 85 percent of consumer purchases are driven by emotional attachment, and someone who is attached is three times more likely to engage with the brand.
When 84 percent of all millennials don’t trust brand advertising as far as they can throw it, you may be wondering how you can be authentic enough to reach this fickle generation. Authenticity in advertising remains the best way to reach millennials. The key is to sell the experience or emotion first, then brand second.