Connected TV Could Be Key to Swaying Younger Voters

Cord-cutting generation engages with politics differently

Young man smiling with TV helmet
Candidates trying to reach a younger demographic might have more luck through streaming than social.
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Connected television and streaming platforms might offer new avenues to reach voters who are disillusioned with social media’s endless scandals or are tuning out of linear TV, according to a new report.

The study, conducted by programmatic platform Telaria and the Dish-owned OTT service Sling, surveyed 1,500 potential voters aged 18 to 29 nationwide to get their opinions on political messages delivered through different platforms. The result? Gen Z is consistently disconnecting from traditional networks that candidates typically use to reach their base and turning toward streaming to get the political intel they need before 2020.

“When you think about this particular age bracket—they’re either cord-cutters or cord-nevers,” explained Jennifer Catto, CMO of Telaria. “And on the other side of that, they’re growing up in the age of fake news and [have] an inherent distrust of social media.”

Many political candidates still rely on linear television in the hopes of reaching—and swaying—a potential vote. But it could be time for them to think outside the TV box. Nearly 25% of households will have cut their cords entirely by 2022, according to eMarketer, replacing their traditional television providers in favor of streaming services that, increasingly, offer options linear television doesn’t.

Meanwhile, the number of households that purchase pay-TV services such as cable is forecast to drop by 4.2%, going from roughly 90 million in 2018 to 86.5 million by this year’s end.

Spearheading this trend are younger viewers tapering off their television time. That same eMarketer report found viewers in every age bracket were decreasing their linear television time, but the drop among viewers 18-24 was 6.4% , while viewers 25-34 cut their screen time by 5.6%. Meanwhile, 63% of the survey sample—or 945 would-be-voters—reported feeling distrustful of the political advertising on channels like Facebook and Twitter.

“They don’t want things editorialized for them,” Catto went on. “They just want videos of the candidates speaking, and hearing the words from the candidates themselves.”

And, according to the research, connected television is where they’re going to get those videos. On average, respondents spent 15 hours on streaming services per week, compared with 10 hours spent watching cable or broadcast television. Meanwhile, when asked where they conducted research or read up on political candidates, nearly half said they turned to livestreamed events rather than watching “professional videos” put out by the pundits themselves.

This is also an age group that could carry serious political power—as the Telaria report plainly says, “Political apathy [in this group] appears to be a non-issue.” Of those surveyed, 925 said they planned to vote in a presidential election, and 88% said they planned to vote in the primaries. And considering the sheer number of this cross-section—roughly 39 million, by some estimates—swaying their say could be key in the 2020 race.

“This is the first generation that’s giving that legitimacy to those digital sources,” Catto said. “This is the means that they’re most comfortable with—and it doesn’t need to be in the perimeters of cable or broadcast to have that credibility.”

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