Technology is perpetually changing. What used to be the norm inevitably becomes a way of the past, as all over the world there is a constant development of new and exciting products designed to better our lives. Being a millennial, I was born into somewhat of a unique circumstance. I got to experience the incredibly fast turnover of anything and everything tech. I grew up on desktop monitors the size of a microwave. I had telephones that were attached to the walls of my house. I had a television with an antenna on top, and some days when it was raining I had to physically adjust it just to get a signal.
But as time went on these machines slowly became obsolete. We trimmed the fat off of computers. Telephones became wireless and eventually made their way into our pockets, and television antennas became a novelty as we switched to satellite. As a society we advance, and we advance quickly. It wasn’t too long ago that I had to wait for my mom to get off the phone just so I could use the Internet.
The new change that is happening before our eyes is that of Over the Top content. Television stations used to be in charge of what we could watch and when we could watch it. If nothing good was on television then you were out of luck. If you missed one episode of your favorite series, you were out of luck. If a friend recommended a show to you but you haven’t seen it yet, you were out of luck.
But with the emergence of applications like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu, we now have access to an all you can eat buffet of unlimited entertainment possibilities. We can watch whatever our hearts desire, for however long we desire, anytime we desire, anywhere we desire. We are now truly the masters of our own entertainment avidity. I watched the entire series of Breaking Bad, a show that was on air for five years, in one month. I could watch 10 episodes a day if I wanted to. I could watch episodes at two in the morning if I wanted to. I could watch episodes during class if I wanted to, and I did. Any episode, anytime, anywhere.
That was the first television show I binge watched but after that it became the norm. I could not go back to waiting for Wednesdays at 8 p.m. to continue a television series. I was part of a generation where we crave immediate satisfaction. If we want to learn something we just go on our phones and Google it. If we want to hear a song we can go on Spotify and listen to it right then and there. Now television entertainment is answering our demands for immediate satisfaction. I don’t watch programmed television anymore, I watch Netflix, which in turn means I’m actually watching more video than I ever have before.
While Netflix and other subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) products have become the “go to” for my personal viewing pleasure, nationally for people ages 18-34, television still reigns supreme. According to Nielsen data, on average millennials spent two hours and 45 minutes each day watching live television, compared to one hour and 23 minutes each day watching an SVOD service. What’s interesting, however, and what may hint towards a new trend is the disparity in SVOD viewing between individuals in this age group if they live on their own compared to those who are dependents. For millennials who live on their own, 42% of their television viewing time is spent on streaming video on demand services. Conversely, dependents of the same age group only spend 31% of their television viewing time on SVOD. What this trend indicates is that as this age group matures and eventually step out from under their parent’s wing, more and more people may be turning toward SVOD services rather than television.
According to the data, I am the minority by predominantly watching Netflix more than live television. In the near future, however, as my generation begins to set out on its own, watching television may have to evolve the way large desktops, tethered telephones, and television antennas did. Rather than fading into obscurity, it must adapt to the changing environment, and as SVOD services grow, the future of television will be coming sooner rather than later.
Alex Bernstein is a summer marketing intern at SeaChange and a sophomore at Quinnipiac University. As part of his internship, he's investigating how millennials consume video. Join the conversation and take this brief survey to express your point of view: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SeaChangeConsumerSurvey. You could win one of three prizes for participating.