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Youth Movement: Gen Z Boasts the Largest, Most Diverse Media Users Yet

3 minute read | July 2017

While Millennials continue to grab headlines for their tech-savvy penchant for adopting new technologies and their unique media behaviors, the first-quarter 2017 Nielsen Total Audience Report sheds some much-needed light on the NEXT generation of consumers—Generation Z—as well as how different generations adopt and use established and nascent devices and platforms.

Of note, Generation Z and Millennials now make up nearly half (48%) of the overall U.S. generational composition, an insight of even larger importance as the youngest generation begins to mature and enter the workplace.

What’s more is that both Generation Z and Millennials are more multicultural in their overall race/ethnic composition than previous generations. For instance, Generation Z holds the largest percentage of Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks at 22% and 15%, respectively. Compare that to the Greatest Generation (those aged 71 and up), whose make-up is overwhelmingly non-Hispanic white at 78%, with 9% of its population non-Hispanic black and 8% Hispanic.

But while age groupings are strong indicators of diversity, they’re also a clear barometer of life stage and thus, a strong gauge of media habits. Millennials—who are most likely in the beginning stages of their careers—have the lowest household incomes and are more likely to rent their home and live in urban areas.

Members of Generation Z, on the other hand, tend to live overwhelmingly in homes of three or more people, enabling them to benefit from the higher incomes of the family members they live with.

Still, Millennial and Generation Z consumers display similar tastes for emerging technologies. However, those preferences are partly dictated by their corresponding life stages.

But what about the media the different generations lean on?

The report found that Millennials were more likely to have access to multimedia devices (such as Apple TV and Google Chromecast) and subscription video on demand (SVOD) services (SVOD) than other generations, allowing them to connect to multiple forms of content. While Generation Z had high penetration numbers for the same devices and services, they also benefit from the technological choices of the older, and seemingly higher earning, members of their households. Additionally, this generation has the highest penetration numbers for more expensive devices, such as enabled smart TVs (37%), video game consoles (73%) and tablets (78%).

While newer technologies are more prevalent with younger generations, penetration is growing among Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers.

When looking at multimedia devices, penetration among Baby Boomers increased 29% year-over-year, while penetration among Generation X increased 23%. SVOD services are also growing in popularity with older generations, as 51% of Baby Boomers and 69% of Generation X’ers use them (at least a 10% lift for both groups since last year), narrowing the gap between them and their younger counterparts—in which three out of four have SVOD access—for the same service.

The increased use of these technologies across generations hints at their potential progression from niche devices and services to overall ubiquity. Take smartphones for example. Once primarily permeating certain groups, they now are owned by upward of 97% of Generation Z and Millennials, 95% of Generation X and 86% of Baby Boomers.

While it’s long been known that age and life stage are instrumental in how media is consumed, the rise of Generation Z as the largest and most diverse generation presents a unique opportunity on the horizon for marketers. Couple this with the fact that new technology and forms of content that are slowly being adopted by Americans of all ages and it becomes even more paramount to know how consumers are engaging with devices and platforms.

For additional insights, download the first-quarter Nielsen Total Audience Report.

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