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Generational Streaming

October 26, 2022

Are you Watching TV or Watching Netflix? It All Depends on Your Age.

The other day I was trying to get my almost 18-year-old daughter to do some chores on a Saturday morning. If you have a teenager, or have ever been around one, you’ll understand the challenge of getting them to do anything on a weekend morning, let alone something labeled as a “chore.” But, when I asked her to stop watching TV and come downstairs to unload the dishwasher, she yelled “I’m not watching TV, I’m watching Netflix.” I was a little surprised by her reply. Not because she was angry (raising a teen, remember) but because she was drawing this very clear distinction between TV watching and streaming shows on Netflix. Hmmm.

It got me thinking.

To me, a mother of a certain age, my first thought was, ‘yes, you’re watching TV (that’s the device) and you’re streaming Netflix on it.’ But clearly that’s not what she thought. Besides the fact that neither watching TV nor streaming Netflix was going to get her out of emptying the dishwasher, in her mind, watching TV and streaming Netflix are two different things. Watching TV to her and her friends implies watching scheduled shows on network channels (linear TV) …something they rarely do. While watching Netflix is watching Netflix, whether it’s on a TV, tablet, laptop, or phone (all options in our house).

Why is this important?

In this era when linear TV continues to decline (more on that later), getting your message in front of the right audience at the right place and time makes them more likely to engage, recall and react favorably.

We all know that video streaming has exploded since 2020. But did you know that watching TV and video streaming as a media category has started to decline in 2022?* With pandemic restrictions falling away, is everyone just spending less time binge watching these days? The answer all depends on their generation and how they are viewing.

Overall, TV watching or streaming videos among frequent users of media is down significantly from 2021 (from 54% to 51%).

Let’s dive into this.

It appears that the rule of thumb when it comes to TV watching/streaming videos is that the older you are, the more you are watching. While Gen Zs are only watching 24.9 hours of TV per week, Baby Boomers are watching 34.5 hours – almost 10 hours more per week. Additionally, Gen Zs lost the most viewing hours year-over-year (almost 1.5 hours), whereas Baby Boomers viewing time declined only 0.79 hours.

* Big Village Audience Intelligence Dashboard

As expected, linear TV consumption is down from last year regardless of generation. The decrease is most pronounced with Gen Z where now only 38% say they watch linear TV weekly (down 11 points since last year) while a full 65% of Baby Boomers still watch (although that is down by 10 points from 2021).

While linear TV viewing declined across all age groups, we might assume Connected TV (CTV)* to increase, but it did not. Only Baby Boomers increased their CTV viewing from 58% to 62% (although this is the lowest CTV viewing level among generations). Gen Z and Millennials are most likely to stream via CTV (83% for both groups), even though usage declined for both in 2022 (Gen Z from 84% to 83% and Millennials significantly from 86% to 83%).

Across all generations, Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD)* is used more than Advertising Video On Demand (AVOD)*, but usage of both streaming methods increased year-over-year. Again, Baby Boomers, although the lowest level users, showed the most growth in SVOD (from 55% to 64%) and AVOD (from 43% to 51%).

The top favorite SVODs across all generations are Netflix and then Amazon Prime Video. For Gen Z and Millennials this is followed closely by Disney+. Disney+ and HBO/HBO Max are neck-in-neck for 3rd place among Gen X, while Baby Boomers favor Netflix and Amazon Prime Video only. Hulu is the strongly favored AVOD for Gen Z (58%) and Millennials (55%) and while it has the most usage among Gen X (38%) and Baby Boomers (22%) the lead is not as strong.

While TV/video streaming has dipped slightly since 2021, it’s not going anywhere.

But its makeup continues to shift and evolve in large and small ways, depending on the audience. Making sure your message is getting in front of the right eyes is more important than ever in this shifting environment. If you want to understand the media habits of your customized audience better, check out our Audience Intelligence tool or contact us and talk to one of our Audience Intelligence experts.


*CONNECTED TV (CTV) user is defined as a consumer who utilizes a device that connects to the TV to allow for video content streaming. This also includes OTT, Over the Top, which allows for the watching of TV/ Streaming content directly from the internet on any device such as a Smart TV, Mobile Phone, Computer/Laptop, Tablet)
*SUBSCRIPTIONS VIDEO ON DEMAND (SVOD) is a type of service where users enter into a subscription agreement and pay a recurring fee that grants them access to watch content with no limits.)
*ADVERTISING VIDEO ON DEMAND (AVOD) is a type of service where users must watch ads to view the content they want to watch for free.

Written by Lisa Leutem, Director, Insights at Big Village