Millennial Media: Watching What I Want, When & Where I Want

hulu on iphoneI’m preparing a presentation to an entertainment industry client later this month, so I’ve watched more hours of TV in more different ways(channel site, Hulu, DVR and YouTube) than usual.  My media habits have changed more in the past month than they have in the past 5 years. According to the 3rd quarter 2009  Nielsen “Three Screen Report’, I’m pretty typical. 

A lot has changed even since November when I last blogged about the meaning of changing video viewing habits.  TV viewing is holding its own with an all-time high of a whopping 141 hours and 3 minutes a month. But viewing is also up dramatically for the ‘other’ two screens, Internet (+46%) and Mobile (+70%), largely due to multi-tasking and greater availability of content thanks to Hulu, network streaming web sites and YouTube. With total media consumption up, that means there’s a lot of multi-tasking going on.

“Although we have seen the computer and mobile phone screens taking on a significant role, their emergence has not been at the cost of TV viewership,” said Jim O’Hara, President, Media Product Leadership, The Nielsen Company. “The entire media universe is expanding so consumers are choosing to add elements to their media experience, rather than to replace them.”

Here are the facts:

  1. Online viewing of TV content is up by almost a full hour – 59 minutes in the second quarter relative to 2008. Much of this growth is driven by Millennials. Adults 18-24 watch more than 5 hrs of TV online each month vs. Adults 65+ watching just over 1 hr of online video. According to a new Conference Board/TNS report, 25% of households watched TV online, up from 20% last year. Where are they going online to watch? More than two-thirds of online TV viewers access television content through the official TV channel’s home page. still retains second place, accessed by 42% of online TV viewers. There has been a great explosion in the popularity of, with usage growing from 8% of households in 2008 to 32% today.   
  2. DVR use is growing as well, with Americans watching an entire hour more of time-shifted TV each month than a year ago.
  3. Mobile viewing on ipods and cell phones, as noted above, is up 70% according to Nielsen; that’s 15 million Americans.  As with online viewing, name-brand’  TV network content comprises the majority of mobile video viewing.  

It’s worth taking a closer look at mobile viewing since many marketers are interested but hesitant. According to Knowledge Networks  more than two-thirds of Americans use mobile devices that are video-enabled; 67% of video ipod owners use them to watch video (15% of the total surveyed population). Similarly, 48% of video enabledcellphone owners use them to watch video (5% of the total sample).Lack of data service among Millennials is probably the only thing holding cell phone viewing back. According to, a blog devoted to issues of mobile marketing, youth are more likely to have a pre-paid or pay-as-you-go plan which limits their likelihood of watching an entire show on their phone.

(FYI, Mobithinking has some goodideas on how marketers can overcome this hurdle to engage with mobile Millennials. For more great ideas on mobile youth marketing visitMobileYouth.orgby Graham Brown and Josh Dhaliwal.   They have gieven me a real education over the past few months and generously share their data and ideas in over 50 slideshare presentations). 

What the facts mean:

As usual facts alone do not tell us the significance of the changes. Beginning with the introduction of the VCR, there has been a movement away from ‘appointment’ viewing toward watching when and and now where you want. The season openers of Glee last night on Fox and Mad Men three weeks ago on AMC were eagerly awaited. But how many actually watched them the moment they aired? In November, I noted this delayed viewing phenomenon when Heroes opened it’s new season. At the time, I speculated that the role of the network ‘brand’ would decline:

“If these patterns hold, we are moving toward a model where the venue is less important than the content. Soon, it will all be simply ‘video entertainment’, with viewing devices presenting alternative formats for watching the same stuff. Each format will offer different advantages in the user experience, but the same content. In that world, does it even matter that Heroes and SNL are on NBC? From a branding standpoint, channels simply won’t matter. It will all simply be ‘video’.” 

I am no longer so sure that’s right, especially with content becoming more available on network web sites. Networks seem to be doing a good job of branding their shows and their networks. Ironically, this may be the dawn of a new golden age of network brands where the focus is on the content and not the venue.