Millennials Care More About TV (and Its Ads) Than YouTube

A VAB report says television is still the best way to reach the demo

Millennials watch TV content four times as much each month as YouTube . Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Broadcast ratings are down double-digits this fall, but a new report from the Video Advertising Bureau says broadcast and cable TV—and not YouTube, Facebook or streaming services like Netflix—are still by far the best way for brands to reach audiences, particularly millennials.

Those are the findings from the VAB report that looks at the emotional bonds viewers form with TV content and how that affects brands and advertisers. The VAB is made up of broadcast and cable networks and the largest cable companies to promote the power of video advertising.

Adults spend five hours, 18 minutes on average watching TV programming each day. That’s more time than they spend eating, drinking, shopping, talking on the phone or watching Netflix, YouTube and Facebook combined, according to the report. For millennials, that number drops to three hours per day, but TV time is still greater than the other activities combined.

Among all adults, the average time spent on TV programing is 43 percent longer than it is for YouTube and 240 percent higher than Facebook, allowing for more engagement.

The VAB report pushes back against the narrative that millennials are abandoning live, linear TV. Adults ages 18- to 24 watch 88 percent of prime-time programming live, while 25- to 34-year-olds watch 86 percent of prime-time programming live.

Millennials 18 to 24 spend twice as much time each month watching video content on a TV (72 hours) than on a computer or smartphone, and 25- to 34-year-olds spend three times as much time watching video on a TV (102 hours) as they do on other devices. Adults 18 to 34 watch TV four times as much as they do YouTube.

The VAB report spotlights the connection viewers have with TV content, while noting the lack of bonds users feel watching YouTube.

New TV programs are more than twice as likely to be viewed during the live-plus-same-day period as new YouTube videos (88 percent to 36 percent).

The streaming company’s trending videos, the report found, had a negligible impact on driving interest to YouTube channels or personalities, prompting little further engagement. And over a two-week period, 27 percent of the top 50 trending YouTube videos were in fact popular TV content.

Furthermore, music accounts for more than 30 percent of all time spent on YouTube, offering users no character or story development to keep them engaged over time.

On the 10 most viewed TV networks in July, audiences watched 292.5 billion minutes across 635 programs. On YouTube during the same month, viewers watched 37.2 billion minutes across more than 700,000 channels.

Why is all of this important? Because, according to the VAB report, 85 percent of consumer purchases are driven by emotional attachment, and someone who is attached is three times more likely to engage with a brand.

Eighty-nine percent of viewers “highly enjoy” watching content on TV, far higher than those satisfied by watching via tablets (63 percent), computers (54 percent) or mobile (53 percent).

TV drives stronger ad recall  (62 percent) than tablets (47 percent), computers (45 percent) and smartphones (46 percent). And 64 percent of consumers believe they’ll find memorable ads on TV.

“In digging deeper, past the easy assumptions on millennials’ YouTube and TV usage, it’s striking how much more time millennials spend with TV,” said VAB president and CEO Sean Cunningham. “Millennials have an insatiable appetite for TV content and are constantly looking for more ways to connect with their favorite shows and characters—which naturally extends to YouTube. In any given night, YouTube is being fueled by TV content. Our analysis showed that the largest driver of trending content on YouTube was ad-supported TV programs. TV provides a real-time, emotional shared experience that doesn’t exist on any other digital platform.”

The full VAB report is available here.

UPDATE: A comScore representative said that several slides in the VAB report, which relies in part on comScore data, do not include mobile video, which may not provide accurate comparisons to TV viewing. In response, the VAB said the gap between digital and TV viewing is so wide that even with mobile video added to the measured platforms, TV viewing would still be significantly larger.

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