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Video Advertising Bureau study Millennials brands programming

Millennials Still Love Their TV Shows, And The Brands That Back Them

For all the talk of cord-cutting and a turning away from traditional TV by younger viewers, a new Video Advertising Bureau study suggests Millennials remain ardently in love with TV programming that in turn routinely influences what they choose to buy and where they choose to eat.

The study, Committed: Exploring Millennials’ Meaningful Relationship With TV Programming, surveyed 1,000 young adults to look at their enduring attachment to ad-supported TV programming, and its continued outsized influence on their buying and socializing decisions.

“Our new ‘Committed’ report quantifies the deep connection viewers form with television programs, which translates into actions far beyond watching,” said VAB president and CEO Sean Cunningham. “This significant emotional bond between millennial viewers and television motivates purchases and generates results for marketers.”

For nearly three in four of these Millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 (74 percent), TV remains their “me time,” and almost as many (73 percent) try to watch every new episode of their favorite shows.

More than three in five (61 percent) said they regularly set aside time to watch their favorites, and more than half (56%) said the finale of each season left them sad about having to wait months to see the next new episode.

This appetite for appointment TV supposedly has been evaporating in an era of DVRs, on-demand streaming and other direct-to-consumer viewing options. But the survey suggests that for many young adults, settling in to watch their favorite TV shows remains a highlight of their week.

“Emotion drives everything we do – what shows we watch, what we buy, what we wear,” said Jared Feldman, CEO and founder of Canvs, the emotion-measurement AI company. “As millennials prioritize TV viewing, it’s more important than ever to analyze their Emotional Reactions to shows and dig into how this influences their outwardly expression and behavior.”

And advertising supporting those programs remains influential as well, the study conducted by Research Now suggests. Of those surveyed:

  • 40 percent have visited a destination they saw on TV;
  • 43 percent have gone to eat at a restaurant they saw advertised;
  • 43 percent have purchased a product they saw on TV.

Those rates are all somewhat higher than the adult population as a whole, even as Millennials purportedly lead the cord-cutting charge that has seen subscriptions fall dramatically for traditional pay-TV services. But the connection to shows and the brands that support those shows remains powerful, the study suggests.

It even carries over online to other fan behaviors. Almost half of those surveyed said they go online to hunt down episode recaps and reviews. Perhaps that’s not a surprise given the rising popularity in recent years of such “meta-shows” as The Talking Dead and basically everything Andy Cohen does on air for Bravo, and endless posts across many sites focused on what happened in big shows.

“Millennials have more choices than ever in a ‘million-channel world,’ making deft targeting a crucial skill for modern marketers,” said Tim Sovay, the COO at CreatorIQ, an influencer-marketing platform. “And as the lines between digital and traditional continue to blur, digital creators increasingly see (having a presence across) television, streaming platforms, and podcasts as attainable,  as do their large brand partners that enable this growth.”

And of course, younger fans have been filling their social-media accounts with never-ending conversations about their favorite shows, stars and brands. Some 55 percent of those surveyed said they had used a phrase in conversation that they’d heard on TV. Another 45 percent share, post, or tweet video clips and content. The study even found that Millennials bonded more intensely with TV programming than with original YouTube content.

“Millennials are growing the trillions of different expressions we have every day, evolving language and culture through their emotion-driven interactions with content and each other,” Feldman said. “At Canvs, we use semantic AI and machine learning systems to understand how and why people feel, and use those insights to inform content creation and business decisions.”

“Influencer marketing is simply the latest powerful incarnation of brand advocacy,” said Sovay. “What has changed is not the fundamental format, but rather the volume of distribution channels and the voraciousness of the niche audiences that subscribe.”

The Video Advertising Bureau’s members include a wide range of broadcast and pay-TV networks and distributors, including: A+E NetworksAltice USA,  AMC NetworksAT&T AdWorks, BET Networks, CBS Broadcasting, , Charter Spectrum Reach, Cinema Advertising CouncilComcast SpotlightCox Media, The CW, Discovery, Inc., Disney/ABC Television Group, ESPN, Fox Broadcasting, Fox Networks Group, FuseGSNHallmark/Crown Media, Mediacom / OnMedia, NBCUniversal,National CineMedia (NCM)ReelzScreenvision MediaSpotlight Cinema NetworksTennis ChannelTurner, Univision Communications, UPtv,Verizon Fios, Viacom Media Networks and WGN America.


The VAB commissioned Research Now to conduct the Committed survey, fielded online in April 2018 with 1,000 adult 18+ respondents surveyed. Survey respondents skewed slightly younger but otherwise aligned with the population.