Nielsen Takes a Closer Look at Generation Z

By Charlene Weisler Nielsen Archives

No sooner is the media industry starting to understand Millennials than we are faced with another, younger generation of consumers and viewers.  Nielsen refers to this post-Millennial group as Generation Z and focused its latest Total Audience Report (1Q17) on this younger, up-and-coming cohort.

Why Generation Z?  They are a large percentage of the TV and Total U.S. populations, very diverse and, through their use of technology, are expanding the media usage footprint.  According to Nielsen, Generation Z (which Nielsen defines as anyone under 21) is currently 26% of all persons in Total U.S. TV Homes -- the largest generation of individuals today -- and when combined with Millennials, form almost half of the total U.S. population.  They are also very diverse, accounting for 22% of all Hispanics compared to previous generations.  As a Nielsen press release states, "While generations like the Baby Boomers and Millennials are well known and add their own unique value to the media landscape, the lesser studied Generation Z is quickly maturing into adulthood and will soon make their presence known." Indeed.

I sat down with Peter Katsingris (pictured below), Nielsen's Senior Vice President of Audience Insights, to discuss the impact of Gen Zers on media.

Charlene Weisler:  What are the major takeaways of the recent Nielsen Total Audience report on Gen Z?

Peter Katsingris:  I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that Gen Z is the largest and most multicultural generation out of all the ones we looked at.  Living at home -- which they tend to -- comes with perks: They have access to plenty of options for viewing content.  Almost three out of four Gen Zers have access to an SVOD service and nearly all have some sort of TV connected or digital device to view content.  They are growing up in an on-demand world and have more choices available to them than prior generations.

Charlene:  What makes them different from Millennials?

Peter:  With these younger generations it's all about life stages.  Millennials exist as adults now -- they're finishing up college, entering the workforce, moving out on their own, or starting a family.  They are trying to earn a living and figure out what they can or can't afford.  They are at different points in their lives than Gen Zers, who are mainly still at home.  Gen Z tends to be less self-reliant and because they are home, I believe, they have access to more tech and services than Millennials.

Charlene:  Is Gen Z as large an influence to the culture today as Boomers were at their peak?

Peter:  It's hard to say right now.  Boomers lived through some different times and that makes it hard to compare.  So many things have changed between generations, whether based on historical events or technological advancements.  Only time will tell.

Charlene:  What are the major attitudinal attributes of Gen Z?

Peter:  They are definitely growing up in a more technologically advanced time than prior generations.  I happen to be the parent of Gen Zer and I definitely see their need to constantly stare at screens both large and small.  Wherever you go, you see this young generation being entertained by a device whether it be in a restaurant, shopping cart, at home -- pretty much anywhere!  They are exposed to so much more because of technology and are "growing up" quicker than prior generations.

Charlene:  How do you see Gen Z impacting media and content consumption?

Peter:  Again, it goes back to life stages, and that makes it tricky.  The younger Gen Zers are either at home or school and as they become teens, they are out of the house more.  During this transition, their habits tend to change as well.  Once they hit college, consumption changes completely.  Because they are growing up in this on-demand world, their media habits are different than prior generations.  College kids tend to be the lightest viewers of television, but do use the TV set for their connected devices like game consoles and multimedia devices for streaming content almost as much as prior generations.  Gen Zers will likely have similar digital use as Millennials as they age, but the question still is if younger generations will look like the older ones.  Or will older ones change and adopt younger behaviors?  It's a lifelong study.

Charlene:  How do you see Gen Z impacting ad consumption?

Peter:  I think it all depends on what media they are consuming and which platform.  Some platforms or services are more ad supported.  For example, if we see they are only watching SVOD services, then they would be exposed to fewer ads.  But they are watching or listening to media across all platforms.  They are increasingly using game consoles and multimedia devices.  We can assume they are increasingly using digital devices like the younger Millennials as well.  Depending on how ads are served on those platforms would play a role with their impact. 

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