The Netflix Generation
Since launching in the United States in 1948, cable television quickly emerged as the media consumption method of choice for families around the world.
Cable brought to us some of the most memorable and noteworthy events in history. People saw the fall of the Berlin Wall from their living rooms in 1989 – and many even remember being inspired by Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon twenty years earlier.
And although television is still a vital medium today, it is also stuck in an inevitable quagmire. Digital already generates more ad revenue than television, while more people switch to streaming platforms every day.
Make no mistake – even though there is still plenty of money to be made in television, cable is experiencing a slow death, just like other traditional media channels. It might not yet be reduced to the more niche territory of radio or print, but cable is treading the same path.
The Digital Natives
Why this is the case is very simple math.
Even just six years ago in 2011, the average 18-24 year old millennial consumed about 25 hours of traditional television per week – today, they consume closer to 14 hours.
That said, it’s no surprise that the first generation of digital natives skews heavily towards digital content, but what will be even more interesting is the behavior of the next generation on deck: Gen Z (born in 2000 and onwards). This cohort was born into a world of screens and iPhones, and will not be aware of a prior era. To them, flipping through channels on cable television seems even more antiquated and arbitrary than it does to older generations.
Gen Z watches between two and four hours of YouTube and less than an hour of traditional television per day. They’re also twice more likely to use YouTube than Millennials, and a lot less likely to use Facebook.
– Shireen Jiwan, chief brand experience officer at Lucky Brand
Less than an hour per day is not very conducive to the cable business, especially when there are hundreds of channels in existence today. And while insights on Gen Z are still fluid and evolving, it’s highly doubtful that the generation will do a 360 on video anytime soon.
In the meantime, cable’s survival as a dominant medium rests squarely on the shoulders of older generations. While it works as a business for now, cable can’t fight the demographics forever.