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Facts Of Life: As They Move Through Life Stages, Millennials’ Media Habits Are Different and Distinct

4 minute read | March 2016

The difference between an 18-year-old and a 34-year-old is often like night and day. From where they live to what they wear to how much discretionary income they take home, a vast array of differences exist within what is often portrayed as a monolithic group of consumers.

Likewise, according to Nielsen’s Q4 2015 Total Audience Report, Millennials’ don’t have a uniform media palate. Their lives are in rapid transition as they finish their educations, join the workforce, move into their own homes and start families. And how they connect and what they connect with follows suit.

The report broke Millennials into three life stage groups and found true in media preferences and device penetrations within each. The life stages are:

  • Dependent Adults (living in someone else’s home)
  • On Their Own (living in their own home without children) and
  • Starting a Family (living in their own home with children)

For instance, 97% of 18-year olds live in someone else’s home, primarily with a parent or parents. Conversely, 90% of 34-year olds live in their own home and 60% of this particular age demo do so with children.

Here are some of the other ways the Total Audience Report looked at Millennials:

Tech Talk

In regard to technology ownership (penetration), 78% of On Their Own Millennials have subscription-based video on demand (SVOD) services (such as Netflix and Hulu), which is 14 percentage points higher than Dependent Adults (64%) and 20 percentage points higher than Starting a Family Millennials (58%).

On Their Own Millennials are also more likely than any other millennial group to have multimedia devices, broadband Internet and laptop PCs.

Starting a Family Millennials, however, are more likely to own DVRs (47%), DVD players (69%) and tablets (65%), the latter perhaps predicated on the presence of children in the home rather than income level. Of course, penetration for all devices, including DVD players, tablets and multimedia devices, tends to be higher in high-income homes.

Going Digital

Much has been made about Millennials turning their collective gaze toward PCs, tablets and smartphones, but the report noted that, like other media habits, digital consumption depends on life stage. While tablet ownership is lowest among On Their Own Millennials, this group actually used all three devices significantly more than the other two groups during the month of November 2015.

Overall, On Their Own Millennials spent more than 94 hours using these devices in November 2015—about 10 more hours than all 18-34 year olds and about 18 more hours than Dependent Adults. Conversely, Dependent Adult Millennials tie the other life stages for the highest penetration of PCs but have the lowest usage.

Breaking With Traditions

When looking at insights surrounding the television screen, the average person 18-34 spent two hours and 45 minutes watching live TV each day in fourth-quarter 2015 and one hour and 23 minutes using TV-connected devices–four hours and 8 minutes total using a TV set for any purpose.

However, Dependent Adult Millennials watch a little less live TV than the average: two hours and 32 minutes. They also spend less time with television overall at about three hours and 44 minutes.

Millennials who are On Their Own have the lowest penetration of traditional sources of video (multichannel subscriptions/working antenna) and spend the most time outside the home to boot. As a result, they watch the least amount of live TV of the three life stage groups (two hours and 6 minutes). At the same time, they have the highest penetration of multimedia devices and access to SVOD services and so spend the greatest amount of time with TV-connected devices (1 hour and 32 minutes).

Millennials who are Starting a Family have greater multichannel penetration than the On Their Own group (79% vs 72%) and are otherwise more likely to have a working antenna (14% vs 12%). They also spend the most time at home of the three life stage groups. These factors mean that the Starting a Family group watches the most live TV (three hours and 16 minutes per day) and make the greatest total use of TV screen (four hours and 40 minutes).

But it’s not just about viewing— it’s about listening too.

The report found that radio reaches 90% of Millennials who are Dependent Adults and 89% of Millennials who are On Their Own. But that number rises to 92% among Millennials who are Starting a Family. This group contains a higher percentage of Hispanics, who tend to be heavy users of radio.

Knowing how these segmented groups within the larger Millennial demographic use and have access to both media and devices gives a critical, cross-platform line of sight to programmers, advertisers and agencies seeking a path to reach them.

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