Millennials Are Watching More TV on Hulu This Fall and Less When Shows First Air

Study shows they're taking their time, too

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Millennials are still watching new episodes of television shows this fall—it's just taking them longer than ever to do so. Adults ages 18 to 34 are increasingly turning away from live TV to time-shift programming on platforms like Hulu, according to new insights from data technology and research firm Symphony Advanced Media (SymphonyAM).

The study, which looked at fall season programming through Nov. 1, found that millennials are only watching live TV 30 percent of the time. They're also spending 30 percent of their time watching programs outside of Nielsen's live-plus-3 and live-plus-7 measurements, including OTT programming, VOD beyond three days after an episode's premiere and DVR more than seven days after a show airs.

SymphonyAM also found that when millennials are watching time-shifted network programming, they choose Hulu over VOD or individual networks' websites and apps (Hulu's SVOD competitors, Amazon Prime and Netflix, don't offer episodes of the current seasons of broadcast shows). CBS, which is the only broadcast network that doesn't offer its programming on Hulu, had approximately double the share of viewing duration than its competitors' streaming channels. 

Millennials are taking their time to watch new episodes of fall programming: The live-plus-7 average audience rating per episode in the 18-34 demographic can increase more than 50 percent when measuring for live-plus-35.

The season premiere of Quantico, which rated a 2.97 in live-plus-7 in the demo, jumped more than 50 percent to a live-plus-35 rating of 4.60. The top 20 episodes this fall with the biggest live-plus-7 to live-plus-35 increases measured by SymphonyAM included three episodes of Quantico and four episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Networks with programs that appeal to young adults, like The CW and Fox, saw the most millennial viewing outside of live-plus-7. Fox's millennial viewers tend to watch more VOD, while CBS viewers, who skew older, prefer live and DVR viewing.

"Consumer behavior shifted significantly during the 2015 fall season, confirming that the viewing of TV and video today is officially disconnected from the live-plus-7 currency," said Charles Buchwalter, president and CEO of SymphonyAM, in a statement. "Consumers watch programs across multiple platforms and devices beyond the seven-day viewing window, and this trend is accelerating. Armed with this data, networks and advertisers can now engage consumers in novel ways."

SymphonyAM hopes its findings will help expand interest in its new multiplatform measurement tool, VideoPulse, which it is pushing as a competitor to Nielsen's upcoming total audience measurement.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.