Millennials still avid commercial TV watchers: study

Ipsos-Reid and TVB on how Canada's 7 million millennials consume media

Live network television—typically watched on a big screen—remains a key part of Canadian millennials’ daily media diet, according to new research from Ipsos-Reid commissioned by the Television Bureau of Canada (TVB).

Expanding on its recent report The New TV Landscape: Understanding Broadcast Television within the New Media Landscape in Canada, TVB provided Marketing with an exclusive look at millennial viewing habits that underscores just how pervasive network TV remains in the overall media consumption habits of young adults 18-34.

The findings are based on a two-phase survey using Ipsos Reid’s iSay panel of online Canadians. The first phase used a sample of 3,500 adults 18+, including 1,122 people aged 18-34, who completed a media diary using an hour-by-hour report of their previous day’s activity. The second phase was an attitudinal survey of a subsample of 2,470 diary respondents, including 792 people aged 18-34.

The research found that a typical 18- to 34-year-old spends six hours per day with media, of which 39% is spent watching (either via traditional sources like TV, or newer viewing sources such as YouTube). A quarter of their time is spent browsing, compared with 20% for adults 18+, while listening is identical for both groups at 12%.

Time spent gaming (8%) and with social networks (8%) is higher for millennials than it is for the general adult population, while time spent reading (7%) is lower.

The report found that Canada’s approximately seven million millennials collectively consume about 15.6 million hours of video content each day. Of that total, 10 million hours is commercial television, 3.8 million hours is so-called “grey zone” video such as YouTube and torrents, and 1.8 million is from non-commercial services such as HBO Canada, TMN and over-the-top services like Netflix.

Of the total hours spent watching, a combined 92% is via either a standard TV set (69%) or computer (23%), while other devices such as smartphones 4%) and tablets (3%) play a limited role in video consumption.

“Even among millennials, mobile [viewing] hasn’t exploded,” said Duncan Robertson, director of media insights and research for TVB in Toronto. “Only 8% of all the hours spent are on a device other than a TV or PC.”

Asked why they prefer to watch on a big screen, 71% of millennials indicated that it is more comfortable, while 70% said it offers the best size and the best way to watch with others.

The research also suggests a significant disconnect between live viewing and PVR use in Canada. Of the approximately 64% of all millennial watching dedicated to commercial TV, 42% was to live viewing and just 12% to PVR. The remaining 10% came from video-on-demand (6%), TV website viewing (2%) and TV apps (1%).

“People have clearly overstated how much they view via their PVR,” said TVB president Theresa Treutler. “If you look at the programs that appeal to millennials, you’d find that most of them are the kind of shows that people want to watch live. They don’t lend themselves to PVRing and viewing at a later date, because they’re shows they want to talk about.”

According to a TVB analysis of people meter and portable people meter (PPM) data from 2004 to 2013 (and not part of this study), weekly viewing among millennials has remained stable: from 21.4 hours per week in 2004-05, to 21.3 hours per week in 2012-13. TV reaches 96.8% of this demographic in a typical week, and 85.9% daily.

“There’s no truth to the claim that people are abandoning TV,” said Robertson, who stressed that the data comes not from self-reported research, but PPMs that passively record media interaction.

“Most other market research is based on consumer surveys, asking people what they do and people reporting back their behaviour. People are notorious for not accurately reporting their behaviour, especially when it comes to the time they spend with media.”

The vast majority (90%) of all millennial watching comes at home, 73% within the family room and 20% in the bedroom. In addition, the study found that 81% of commercial TV watching occurs in the family room, while 14% occurs in the bedroom.

The study also found that more than half (54%) of all hours viewed are with a companion, with 79% of those watching the same program.

The study also suggests that cord cutting is not as prevalent as widely believed. Millennials spend an average of $70 per month on commercial TV services, with 36% identified as ‘cord lovers’ (people who have increased spending), 54% as faithfuls (their spend has remained the same) and 10% as shavers (they have reduced spending).

This group also spends approximately $20 a month on non-commercial services such as Netflix and premium services such as HBO Canada, with 26% identified as lovers, 68% identified as faithful and just 5% identified as shavers.

Robertson said there has been only a 0.9% decline in Canadian cable subscriptions since they hit their peak of 11.9 million subscribers in June 2012. “There seems to be a disconnect between the perception that people are tuning out, and the reality of studies like this and our currency data,” he said. “It seems to be all about the experience that the big screen provides.”

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