April 29, 2021

It is unquestionable that Gen Z is a mobile-and-short-form oriented audience. Horowitz’s latest report, State of Gen Z 2020, finds that three in four 13-24 year-olds use their smartphones to watch video content—which could include both long-form and short-form—daily or almost every day. In contrast, 62% report streaming video to a TV set, 52% to a laptop, and 36% to a tablet.

While it might seem that all Gen Zers do is watch short-form content on TikTok and other social media, the study reveals that long form TV content is still critical to Gen Z’s media lifestyle: According to the report, 95% of Gen Z watches at least some TV content (defined as TV shows, movies, news, and sports, but not including short clips), racking up a self-reported average 4.7 hours of long-form TV content per day. The connection, however, to traditional cable/satellite services is weak: while three-quarters (73%) of Gen Z live in homes that have cable/satellite, just 51% of Gen Z are using these services to watch TV content on a weekly basis, underscoring their propensity for the streamed, on-demand, self-curated TV experience.

The study offers an important perspective on the screen preferences of the Gen Z audience. Respondents were asked what screen they would prefer to watch long-form TV content on if they were alone at home and could choose to watch on any screen in the house. More Gen Z respondents said they would choose the TV set over their phone or laptop in that scenario.

“Mobile video has become a critical part of young people’s media diets,” said Adriana Waterston, Horowitz’s SVP of Insights and Strategy. “When it comes to long-form content, there’s still a desire to watch on the best available screen. Access to that larger screen is not necessarily a given for young people, but that will change as they enter different life stages and become heads of their own households.”

New technologies coming down the pike, including developments that will come with the rollout of ATSC 3.0, promise to make the TV set experience even more engaging for Gen Z audiences. For example, almost two-thirds of Gen Zers occasionally text or direct message on social media about shows they are watching, and six in ten report watching TV shows simultaneously with peers in different households, virtually discussing the show through messaging, social media, or co-viewing online experiences. Concomitantly, more than half (56%) of the Gen Zers in the study are interested in co-viewing experiences like Netflix Party and Hulu Watch Party that allow viewers to sync up video playback and chat with each other simultaneously.

“Beyond the portability factor of the smartphone, that the device that is so intensely personalized to you and so interactive makes for an intimate relationship with that screen. On the other hand, the TV experience by definition has been passive, impersonal, and not interactive,” added Waterston. “As Gen Zers mature, so too will the interactive, personalized TV experience—enabling media brands and their advertisers exciting new opportunities to connect to this valuable audience.”

State of Gen Z provides a comprehensive look at Gen Z’s relationship and behaviors around video content (long form, user generated, eSports, etc.), entertainment, relationship with brands, and what brands needs to consider when looking to engage. The study was conducted online in November and December 2020 among 800 13–24-year-olds, with oversamples of Hispanic, Black, and Asian 13–24-year-olds. The report includes analysis by total 13–24-year-olds, by age, gender, and ethnicity/race. Additional data runs available upon request.

 

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