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Millennials redefine television

It’s no secret that times are changing for the television industry. With breaking news updates at the push of a button, thousands of free programs available online and a growing number of Americans ditching cable TV entirely, the future of television may appear bleak.

Despite declining ad revenues and shrinking newsrooms, traditional television broadcasts actually still dominate TV sets worldwide. “About 89 percent of the TV audience is still watching live broadcasts on the big screen,” Victoria Jaye, Head of IPTV at the BBC, told PC Advisor. Audiences are still tuning in, but viewing habits are changing.

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2012 State of the Media Report, 50 percent of Americans use digital news sources daily. In 2012, 106 million Americans watched TV online, and that number is projected to grow nearly 7 percent a year by 2017, reported QZ.com. Perhaps the most important long-term consideration is the viewing habits of young audiences. According to LATimes.com, media analyst Todd Juenger notes in a report that almost half of all television viewing will be done by folks over the age of 50 by 2015. This is problematic because viewers ages 15 to 34, known as “millennials,” represent a vital target for advertisers. By 2017, ABC.com reports they will have more spending power than any other age group. How is the industry adapting to these young consumers?

Video streaming technology has created a major opportunity for television to expand beyond traditional broadcasts.  Research from Pew shows that younger Americans are likely to follow the news on both live television and a computer or mobile device. In addition, a study of Americans ages 13 to 24 shows that on average, they spend 4.1 more hours online than watching TV each week. Services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO Go have already been successful at streaming national content online and through mobile apps. Local television stations are now following suit and many are offering apps to stream local newscasts in real time. KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Mo., for example, offers live streams of its weekday newscasts on computers, tablets and smartphones, while encouraging viewers to participate in a live chat with anchors by submitting comments via social media. Devices such as Google TV, Apple TV and video game consoles offer the option to stream content through apps directly to your television screen, which is an affordable alternative to many cable TV subscriptions.

Adapting to the wide variety of viewing options and age groups has created challenges for advertisers and content providers alike. TouchVision Network, set to launch this summer, offers a solution by integrating content across four platforms – television, online, tablet and mobile phone.  News content, created specifically for millennials, will be updated 24/7 and advertising and programming will air simultaneously on each platform. Several new networks targeting the younger demographic are set to launch in 2013, including Pivot, a Participant Media network, which will feature entertainment and news for millennials interested in social change. P Diddy’s newest venture, Revolt, will feature music, interviews and cultural coverage. Content will air on cable and be available for streaming online.

The rapid growth of the Latino population in the U.S. has created a demand for additional programming appealing to young, English-speaking Latinos. NUVOtv, MUN2 and TR3S are existing channels aimed at younger Latinos. Fusion, created by ABC and Univision, will launch later this year and will feature news and lifestyle programming designed for English-speaking Latino millennials.

The surge of millennial targeted programming and multi-platform content will certainly continue as advertisers and broadcasting companies look to secure future success with consumers. “It is not just a tactic. It’s a must-do for networks to adapt their programming for new audiences,” said Julie Holley, managing editor of television content for Vocus. “Programmers not only need to offer content that is interesting to this generation of viewers, but they must offer it in a way that these young people expect to see it, which is convenient and accessible almost any time.” Only time will tell if these innovations are successful, but it remains clear that reaching out to millennial audiences is absolutely necessary.

–Joanna Lynn

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