The television industry is currently chasing Millennials with billions of dollars worth of marketing and programming, hoping something is going to get their attention.
This age group, loosely defined as people having been born between 1977 and 1995, is currently considered the pinnacle of marketing audiences. However, the almost 80 million Americans in this age range are also some of the most diverse and bewildering of any that TV executives have confronted in a long time.
Millennials, Technology and Television
While TV networks are competing for the Millennials’ notoriously short attention span, with programming like the combined effort of Verizon Communication and Hearst meant for “Millennials from the Heartland,” and Conde Nast Entertainment’s programming designed for the “Cultured Millennial,” Millennials are increasingly giving traditional television the stink-eye.
The New York Times’ Sarah Lyall interviewed several Millennials on the street, asking about their television viewing habits. What they had to say wasn’t especially surprising, nor was there anything remotely similar about their answers. One person was really turned off by Netflix’s predictive curative algorithm; others didn’t use Netflix at all. Many didn’t even own televisions. Those that do were exclusively cord-cutters, streaming everything from Netflix to HBOGo, often using borrowed accounts.
The Most Diverse Demographic
“They’re the most diverse generation of adults in U.S. history, so that’s a big issue for the entertainment industry,” explained Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer and Millennials researcher at the Center of Generational Kinetics in Austin, Texas. “How do we program for such a diverse generation that doesn’t carry checkbooks, a lot of whom don’t carry cash, most of whom are delaying marriage and kids and have a high expectation of diversity and more college debt?”
That’s the very question every television network is throwing billions of dollars at in the hopes of being the first to find an adequate answer. Fragmentation seems like a foregone conclusion at this point, but if market fragmentation yields more uniform audiences overall, it could spell much easier and more complete access for advertisers to this much desired demographic in the end. Only time will tell if today’s TV programming growing pains will end up producing a product that generates intense feelings of network loyalty in Millennial viewers.