While most of us remember tuning into Saturday morning cartoons or rushing home to catch the latest episode of our favorite sitcom, Generation Z — the cohort born between the late 1990s and early 2010s — might recount a different story. Born into a time of unparalleled technological progression, their experiences have been shaped by their seamless interactions with technology.
We find ourselves in a digitized world where Gen Z has managed to flip the script on traditional media consumption. Growing up amidst the dawn of smartphones, the explosion of social media, and the rise of on-demand entertainment, Gen Z possesses an innate digital fluency.
In their reality, screen time isn’t confined to the passive watching of a television screen. Instead, they embrace a more interactive form of engagement, embodied by their dedication to video games, social media, and mobile platforms.
Level Up: The Game of Attention
Generation Z’s media consumption highlights a notable shift away from traditional media.
Gen Z’s relationship with television differs significantly from older generations, who spent more than double the time watching TV shows. The younger demographic prefers gaming, accounting for 22% of their screen time, and non-premium videos, such as YouTube content, which make up another 21%. In contrast, traditional television accounts for only 17% of their screen time.
Based on data from the YPulse Gaming report, 95% of Gen Z and Millennials are engaged with video games, with 78% playing weekly or more often. The battle for the screen is no longer confined to TV channels or streaming services. It’s now a virtual tug-of-war where traditional television grapples with modern gaming platforms for the young audience’s precious time.
While television still seems to take a substantial amount of Gen Z’s weekly media time, it’s more of a multitasking activity than a dedicated pastime. Around 71% of young individuals often engage in other activities, such as scrolling on their phone or playing a game, while watching TV. Thus, even though the television is on, it does not necessarily capture their full attention.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings suggested that their primary competition stems from video games that vie for valuable screen time.
“Our focus is not on Disney+, Amazon or others, but on how we can improve our experience for others,” Hastings said in a shareholder letter. “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO. When YouTube went down globally for a few minutes in October, our viewing and signups spiked for that time.”
Game Over, TV: Gaming Clocks More Hours
If we look closely at the Gen Z habits surrounding gaming, it becomes evident that even if they stick to one console, the race between TV and gaming is neck-and-neck.
When we consider the time spent on games by both Gen Z and millennials, we see a disparity. While both demographics are equally likely to engage in weekly gaming, Gen Z spends more time gaming on their computers and mobile devices, in contrast to millennials. In fact, Gen Z, almost 90% of whom are gamers, spend approximately 12.2 hours each on console and computer gaming weekly, compared to just 11.8 hours on television.
Top-rated games such as Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite span across all devices, drawing Gen Z further away from the TV. The virtual worlds that these games create play a pivotal role in Gen Z’s life, often holding as much importance as their real world.
Smartphone Screens Reign Supreme
In addition to gaming platforms, Gen Z also spends significant time on non-premium video platforms like YouTube and TikTok.
At the same time, Gen Z’s screen time shows a clear preference with 30% using smartphones, followed by 21% using smart TVs, 18% using computers, and 17% using streaming devices, which collectively push traditional television to the periphery.
Cable TV usage is notably low among Gen Z, with only 8% of their screen time devoted to shows through a cable box. More than half of Gen Z say their non-premium video consumption has led to reduced regular TV viewing.
Among Gen Z consumers who use both YouTube and TikTok, the latter emerges as the favorite. 73% of Gen Z respondents indicated they would choose TikTok if they had to stick with just one platform. This predilection points to another shift in Gen Z habits: the growing preference for shorter, more interactive content that these platforms offer.
Gen Z’s enthusiastic embrace of gaming underscores their status as ‘content omnivores.’ While still passionate about entertainment, their habits reflect a broader range of interests beyond traditional television. The preference for gaming over ‘regular’ TV, bolstered by the time spent on non-premium video content and mobile platforms, is completely changing the entertainment world.
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