“Broadcasters, distributors and advertisers have to react to changing consumer habits. To this end, measurement’s scope will need to expand to include reactions to viewing, as well as minutes viewed.”
In the past five years 18-24 year olds have been lured by smartphones, computers, social media, YouTube and other short-form aggregators, subscription video on demand (SVOD) services like Netflix, and video piracy.
All of these distractions may reach saturation by 2020 in these two large English-speaking markets (for historical data, see Figure 1). Through 2023, it is possible the rate of decline may lessen as the digital distractions that have been diverting young people away from traditional TV weaken. This means the erosion of TV minutes in this cohort may slow, even if it does not stop altogether.
Figure 1. Yearly change in traditional TV viewing by young people for the UK and US, 2011-17. Sources: Nielsen and BARB.
Smartphones are near ubiquitous among trailing millennials. Ownership of smartphones among 18-24 year olds in the UK surged from 75% in 2012 to 96% in 2017.
Growth in time spent with smartphones may start slowing. In the US, time spent on smartphone apps and the web among 18-24 year olds surged from 90 minutes daily in 2015 to 156 minutes per day in 2017, a 73 percent increase. We expect smartphone time will continue to increase, but at a slower rate.
Social media time may have reached a plateau. Time allocated to social media has been shifting between platforms, and that is likely to continue, but the overall time spent on social media appears to be plateauing at around an hour per day for 18-24 year olds.
The traditional TV businesses – broadcasters, distributors and advertisers – should assume that 18-24 year old viewing minutes will continue to see annual declines in the high single digits. But they should not expect sustained double-digit declines. TV viewing by 18-24 year olds will, depending on the quarter, probably be 90 to 120 minutes daily in 2018, and 80 to 100 minutes daily in 2019 in the UK and US.
Although younger viewers may be less likely to watch traditional TV, they are more likely than other demographics to consume SVOD services. More important, they are more likely to subscribe to multiple services.
It seems likely the industry should look closely at moving beyond the arbitrary split of watching traditional linear TV (either on a TV or on any device) and watching the same thing but streaming over the internet; measuring total audience will likely become best practice.