Reports surface every week that hail the demise of TV and highlight the shortcomings of cable networks. However, it’s important to note that these trends are merely symptoms. They are symptoms of a larger, cultural change spearheaded by the generation of yours truly—the *in James Earl Jones’ voice* millennials.
We are consuming more content than any other generation and are, as a result, reshaping digital consumption and the future of video production, as you know it. Habits are hard to break, but if an attractive alternative is presented, it becomes much easier to shift gears and form new habits. The classic Gen X habits of being a couch potato and tied down by their DVR has nearly come to an end. Don’t get me wrong, millennials still want to consume the same, if not more, content than their Gen X counterparts. We are just more inclined to want to stream it from different places/applications via two, maybe three, screens.
Let’s take a deeper look at my generation alongside the younger generation coming up behind us, and how our changing habits are transforming the broadcast and pay TV world, as we all know it.
The millennial generation, loosely defined as those aged between 18 and 34, is quickly being followed, even overlapped in some cases, by what some are cleverly calling “Generation Z”. Ready or not, Gen-Z is here, and they are already making a dent in the consumer market (By the way, what will the next generation be called? Do we loop the alphabet and go straight to Generation A? I digress). It is safe to say that both Gens Y and Z are consuming considerable amounts of entertainment and have fully embraced new trends such as binge watching with friends—or not, if the invite is followed by ...and chill.
One study found that 39 percent of us millennials frequently binge watch shows over streaming services compared to only 16 percent of non-millennials. Unless it’s The Walking Dead—then even we might head on over to AMC.
Overall, though, it’s safe to say that live TV viewing habits are being preempted by the increasingly available opportunities for individuals of all ages to tune in to the show they actually want to watch and, most importantly, when they want to watch it. The phrase “Channel surfing,” will soon be replaced with something more applicable that finds its way into the Urban Dictionary. Broadcasters, Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs) and even production studios are living in the age of the viewer. And, believe it or not, the more empowered the viewer gets, the more (cable) cords will be cut. New studies found that both Generations, Y and Z, are watching less broadcast television as it airs. Here’s a handy graph from Forrester to illustrate the quandary.
If you haven’t acquainted yourself with the term “cord-never,” it’s time. Also known as “broadband-only,” us adaptable problem solvers have maneuvered ourselves into a mighty fine, app-based, viewing experience—all streamed via IP.
In addition to consumption patterns, you’ll also see a change in video production. With the advent of the 8mp digital camera, iPhone and Adobe’s Creative Suite, YouTube provided the perfect platform for creatives to share well-produced short-form content for their peers to watch, share and obsess over. As you can expect, the cream of the crop rose to the top and were quickly harnessed by YouTube’s Multi-Channel Networks (MCNs).
This trend paved the way for videolebrities. It’s safe to say that these generations don’t follow—literally, on Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter—A-list celebrities like Tom Cruise, Anne Hathaway or Angelina Jolie. They do follow, spend every penny of their allowances and avidly ‘fangirl/boy’ over YouTubers, Viners and Snappers like Joey Graceffa, Brent Rivera, PewDiePie and Lele Pons. In 2015 alone, there have been a minimum of five conventions held, including the Streamys, an awards show dedicated to this web-based perfection that embraced the culture of the “Maker”.
So, what’s so impressive about today’s Makers? Today’s Makers are opinionated, connected, transparent and brave and innovative enough to produce content only production studios had previously owned. They are extremely adaptable and have sought news ways to distribute their content via the Internet. Fans, in turn, are consuming their content on any Internet-capable device. The increase in mobile consumption of digital content will increase by 23.3 percent in 2015 and by 19.8 percent in 2016. In addition to entertainment, Makers are also tackling the news. Take TYT Network and Newsy, for example. These networks command millions of online viewers and consistently share breaking news in a way that their fans appreciate.
So, all that being said, what does the future of TV hold if the most in-demand digital content is primarily being streamed over-the-top (OTT)? How will broadcast and cable find relevancy with Gen Y and Gen Z and whatever we end up calling the generation after them? And most importantly, when will I be able to stream my favorite content, be it The Walking Dead or whatever videolebrity is currently occupying my interest, through one easy to access portal that is available to me anytime, anyplace and through any kind of screen. That, and hoverboards.