Streaming video’s evolving demographic divide

July 18, 2022

Siblings lying on the floor watching tv together
Jonathan Bennett, Chief Commercial Officer

Jonathan Bennett

Chief Commercial Officer

Linear or traditional television’s decline in recent years has been attributed to the growth of subscription video on demand. “Chord-cutting,” the phenomenon of consumers discontinuing their cable subscriptions, was considered something the younger generation would do. And given that live sports and news have been the two staple genres of the cable bundles catering to the above-50 demographic. These two genres are still the domain of linear television despite the recent surge in live sports deals from OTT players. (Read more in my recent blog)

According to Neilsen, viewers aged 50 and above are now turning to streaming more than their younger counterparts. Viewers from this demographic previously accounted for 35% of total watch time on streamers last May but have overtaken younger age groups, whose streaming hours have dropped off in the past year, per Nielsen numbers. For the first time, consumers ages 50-64 are streaming more TV than the generation below them, which spans viewers ages 35-49. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal[i], According to WSJ, the influx of older streamers is partly because streaming is so much more accessible now than it used to be. “Streaming has progressed beyond both early adopters and the second wave, into older audiences that have been the last holdouts.”, said Brian Fuhrer, senior vice president at Neilsen.

Surprisingly, Netflix pulled in the most viewing time in May, drawing in 6.8% of audiences in May, up from last year’s 6%. This comes at the back of declining Netflix subscribers in the previous quarter. Netflix lost 26% of its Gen Z female users on its mobile app between 2019 and 2022, the most significant decline compared to all other age groups, according to a new study conducted by Global Wireless Solutions (GWS)[ii]. GWS calculates that not only have over a quarter of female subscribers ages 18 to 24 left the streaming platform, but the number of minutes spent on Netflix’s mobile app has decreased among users of all ages. According to the study, even with users who are not canceling subscriptions, minutes spent streaming among women 18 to 34 has decreased by 39% since 2019 and by 33% among men aged 25 to 34. Despite these trends among Gen Z women, Netflix is still the most popular “premium content” streaming service for mobile app viewers, according to GWS.

Netflix is not alone in these recent declines in smartphone viewership. According to the study, since its launch in 2021, Discovery+ had recorded the lowest quarterly minutes of use at 3.2 billion minutes, compared to the third quarter of 2021, when peak viewership reached 4.8 billion minutes. This fall in overall time spent on streaming services may also be attributed to the rise of short-form video, dominated by TikTok, the most downloaded app globally since 2020. YouTube Shorts, Facebook Stories, and Instagram Reels have attempted to emulate the success of TikTok with only mixed results at best.

On the other hand, original programming leader Disney has been banking on its repertoire of content that caters to children and families. Disney Plus has continued its global expansion in recent months, now available in  Greece, Turkey, Poland, and several other central European countries as part of a broader rollout, including 42 new countries and 11 territories across Europe, Africa, and West Asia. Disney Plus is confident in the perceived universality of its content that appeals to audiences across cultures. Netflix is still a global leader, though, available in 190 countries worldwide. (Read more in my recent blog)

The competition for attention and new user acquisition has led to spiraling content budgets for most streaming companies. And now these brands, including Amazon Prime video, are doubling down on developing regional content for South Asia and Europe markets. They will need to balance their content production requirements with evolving trends around consumer demographics in addition to regional variations now. Netflix recently admitted that simplifying payment preferences, especially in emerging markets, will be critical to user acquisition beyond their content-production investments[iii].






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