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Watching TV Shows and Movies: A Generation Gap Like No Other

by David Tice , 09.11.2012

When it comes to viewing TV and movie content, the key word today is options. Laptops, smartphones, DVD players, DVRs, game systems – these are just a few of the platforms viewers can choose.

But it turns out that which they choose has a lot to do with when they were born.

A recent GfK report, How People Use® Media: Over-the-Top TV (2012), explores digital video preferences among Gen Y, Gen X, and young Baby Boomers. Among the tech platforms and combinations we studied:

DVDs on TV (via DVD player unit)
DVR on TV (via DVR unit)
DVD on TV (via video game console)
Streaming on TV (via video game console)
Streaming on PC

Our research found that Gen Yers (ages 13 to 32) prefer videogame consoles or services like Netflix for watching DVDs and streaming content, while Gen X (ages 33 to 46) relies more on traditional DVRs or DVD players.

Often described as digital natives and naturally comfortable with technology, Gen Y is twice as likely as Gen X to watch DVDs or stream video content on videogame consoles. They are also more inclined to use a computer or laptop for streaming movies or TV programs. And, when it comes to streaming subscription services like Netflix, Gen Y shows a considerably higher rate of monthly use than Gen X and Young Boomers.

Gen X, on the other hand, is 10 percentage points more likely than Gen Y to watch a DVR (digital video recorder) on a traditional unit. Commonly portrayed as less engaged with digital technology than the succeeding generation, Gen X shows a more favorable attitude towards traditional media.

Young Boomers, in comparison, score the lowest for viewing TV or movie content via nearly all the newer, digital media technologies.  But they are interested in tablets – devices that they are better able to afford due to their greater affluence than younger people.

Mobile devices aside, when watching TV or movies outside of regular broadcasts, a majority of American consumers still turn most frequently to viewing DVDs on regular TVs. Indeed, more than half (56% each) of Gen Y and Gen X viewers prefer to watch DVDs on TV over digital options, with the percentage for Young Boomers only slightly lower (50%). This might change in the next few years, though, with the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets.

For advertisers and marketers, these findings reinforce the need to create and implement specific strategies targeting each generation’s media preferences and habits. The result is sure to be better ROI, both within each demo and across the entire target audience.

David Tice is Senior Vice President at GfK Media and an expert in home media technology ownership and use.