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Young viewers lead the charge in cutting the cord

Remember when TV was must-see? It was that daily appointment, on a schedule just like showing up to work on time.

For generations, the only way to catch your favorite show was to make sure you were in front of your TV at exactly the right time. Choices were slim, but increased over the years with more channels. And you could watch even more with the evolution of the VCR to DVR, while time slots were still an important factor.

But now habits continue to change among younger viewers, and it’s a fast-moving trend that’s worrying network executives. Why should they worry? Because those viewers are forever changing the landscape of traditional TV.

Why younger viewers are moving away from traditional TV

The fact that younger viewers are leaving TV is nothing new. But new stats say it’s happening at a much faster pace, and it’s due in part to several factors.

It’s all about the options. Video gaming is bigger than ever. Streaming services continue to multiply, with the evolution of Netflix to others like Hulu and Amazon Prime. But it’s not just the existence of those services; it’s how you interact with them. Gone are the days of relying on a TV as more and more get the same content on their laptop, tablets or phones. And it’s all part of the general shift to all things digital.

BONUS: Pick the best streaming service by comparing their channel lineups.

“Younger generations are growing up with more choices at their fingertips,” explains Peter Katsingris, senior VP of audience insights at Nielsen. “They don’t know that you had to watch at 3 o’clock on a Wednesday if you wanted to see a show.”

What the numbers are saying

Nielsen data shows the gap between the viewing habits of young and old is widening, and it’s only getting faster. The new TV season began around the first of October and Nielsen looked at the first four weeks, ending on October 28. The biggest shift is with teens, as the number of viewers dropped 18% from last year. But it’s nearly a 50% drop since 2014. TV viewers in the 18-34 age range fell 15%, and that’s down 36% from four years ago.

Now compare that to the 2% drop with viewers 55 and older. Nielsen’s Katsingris says the numbers reflect the new millennial mindset.

The end of TV as we know it?

Although TV viewing habits are changing, it doesn’t mean it’s going away. Nielsen also looked at usage involving devices connected and streaming through TVs, such as an Apple TV or Roku, but not counting websites or apps. There was also a drop compared to last year, but only 5%.

And that’s streaming content – not cable. Cord-cutting is becoming more and more common. In fact, cable and satellite companies report the loss of about another million customers for a 3-month period ending on Sept. 30. That’s the largest quarterly loss they’ve seen but it’s also not surprising, as reports indicate that about 40% of millennial-led households no longer subscribe to those services.

Learn more about the cost of streaming services in this Consumer Tech Update. Tap or click below to listen.

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