Editor’s note: Want to learn more about GenZ and what’s to come? Check out our GenZ Workshop on December 7.
Traditional TV is already struggling to retain millennials as they turn to more convenient app-based services such as Netflix or Hulu. However, TV’s traditional gatekeepers should also fear the non-arrival of GenZ on television sets. Compared to GenZ, millennials are quite traditional in their habits, and marketers have already figured them out. As they spend up to 11 hours a day online, GenZ has very different preferences for consuming content. They still consume TV, but the TV itself is definitely not their go-to device for watching video.
Indeed, GenZers mainly consume content on their smartphones. Approximately 97% of GenZ in the U.S. owns smartphones, and it is no surprise that they not only use it to socialize and for utility, but also to entertain themselves. The most popular digital platform for entertainment is YouTube: GenZ watches between two and four hours every day on the video platform, and half of them could not live without it. It is no wonder then that approximately 70% of YouTube content is consumed on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). They also watch videos online through Facebook (which in August publicly launched a dedicated tab called Facebook Watch), but if they are looking for true short-form content, they will turn on Snapchat, Instagram. or musical.ly. Nevertheless, GenZ would still prefer to watch comedy, sports, or films on traditional TV; but short-form plays a pivotal role for beauty, fashion, and how-to’s – and even general entertainment.
But YouTube and other mobile-first platforms would not be so popular without creators, and especially influencers. Unlike millennials who subscribe to a specific OTT service to watch a hit show (such as “Stranger Things” on Netflix or “Game of Thrones” on HBO), Gen Zers do not follow programs; they follow influencers, such as Lilly Singh, Cameron Dallas, or Logan Paul. Influencers are a major driver for GenZ consumption on those platforms. Those influencers are charismatic, self-distribute their shows, and fuel a deep relationship with their fans so that influencers engage them in their storylines. Although they became famous over one platform, mainly YouTube, they interact with their fanbases and are present over every platform – Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Given GenZ always knew digital socialization, they expect entertainers to act like friends by being present for their communities. As influencers become more and more popular, they are being offered roles in feature films: YouTube Red launched one of their first fulllength movies, “The Thinning,” starring Logan Paul in 2016, and just announced its sequel a few weeks ago.
As GenZers look for authenticity and friendliness from entertainers, they expect the same behavior from brands. They did not know a world without the internet or digital platforms without ads, unlike millennials who once browsed on ad-free versions of Facebook or YouTube. Thus, they expect brands to entertain them, not merely advertise through pre- and mid-roll videos or ad panels, and they reward brands that prove to be creative in their communication. Gen Z is not afraid of branded content and is more likely to view, like, tag friends, and share brand content, but also to read/ watch product reviews. In fact, over half of GenZ would prefer content introduced by influencers.
However, there is still hope for traditional TV if they adapt to GenZ preferences. The successful Norwegian TV series “Skam,” which will be adapted in the U.S. by Simon Fueller, may be the perfect example. Besides relevant storylines and topics for teens, “Skam” was completely tailored for them regarding their media consumption habits: “clips,” 5-minute sequences from upcoming episodes, were released every day, so viewers could follow the story without waiting until Friday for the complete episode. In addition, creators opened up Instagram accounts for every major character to fuel the show with posts they gathered on the official website. In addition to those publications, they uploaded iMessage and Facebook Messenger conversations in real time that were shown as the series aired.
Within the content and media space, GenZ is building a new ecosystem based on influencers and crossplatform content. Still the question remains: As millennials, who are becoming more “traditional,” turn to OTT skinny bundles to consume TV, will Gen Z jump on the TV bandwagon? Or will they keep on watching digital platforms and their mobile devices? That is a preference that will be closely watched in the coming years.