nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Three data points show Millennial online video migration

Though Nielsen reports that more millennials are watching television the numbers don’t tell the full story. Millennials are, however, spending more time on their smartphones and less on their computers.

Millennial TV viewing increased?

Between Q2 2016 and Q2 2017 the number of Millennials watching ‘Live/DVR + Time-shifted TV viewing’ increased slightly, by 1%, from 77% to 78%. Previous Nielsen data showed that millennials were watching dramatically less television. Does this mean that the trend is reversed, and millennials are finally starting to watch more television?

To answer this question, we need to ask what these numbers are counting. Live TV and DVR recordings are from television and cable viewing. However, Nielsen recently began to include viewing through virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) like Sling TV and DirecTV Now in the ‘Live/DVR + Time-shifted TV viewing’ numbers.

Millennial consumers have been loud and clear that traditional cable bundles do not serve their needs. The number of cord-cutters has been steadily growing among them. Moreover, vMVPDs have been explicit about their intention to recapture the young with their services. According to analyst Craig Moffett, they have been at least somewhat successful. He says the ratio of lost pay-TV subscribers who were recaptured by vMVPDs was about 50% in Q2 2017. Services such as SlingTV and DirecTV Now have seen 2 million and 1 million subscribers come to their platforms, respectively.

It seems that vMVPDs offer the best explanation for the increase as linear, and cable television viewing continues to slide.

Millennials are not buying computers

Growth in reach of computers among millennialsThe number of people using a web browser on a computer fell by a percentage point from 43.9% to 42.7%. Additionally, all categories for computer usage such as social networking, video, and audio fell. Social networking fell the most, by 4%. Does this mean millennials are no longer using computers?

Computer usage has been falling since 2015. The Wall Street Journal reported a peak usage occurred in 2015. The drop should come as no surprise to anyone who had been paying attention to millennials in 2016. ComScore reported that 1 in 5 millennials don’t even use a desktop.

The reason for the drop hasn’t been a decrease in internet activity by millennials. It has been due to an increase in mobile internet activity.


Millennials continue to love their smartphones

smartphone usage among millennials 2017

Daily Millennial smartphone usage by application

Coming as no surprise to anyone is the highest statistic in the report. Internet usage on smartphones increased just over a percentage point, but the numbers were the highest in any category. In 2017 over 90% of millennials are browsing the web on their smartphones. More than 2/3 of them watch video on their device at about 40min a day.

While this might not seem like a lot compared to the television viewing of 231 minutes a day, this is more than double the amount of the previous year. So, while the reach may not be increasing rapidly (it can’t go higher than 100%), the amount of time Millennials spend on their smartphone is increasing dramatically.


This big increase in mobile phone usage could explain the drop in the popularity of computers. As the processing power, size and picture quality improve, the smartphone continues to be seen as a replacement for the computer.

Why it matters

  • Although it seems as if millennials are watching more television, a closer analysis indicates this might not necessarily be the case
  • Computer usage has decreased ever so slightly and this is probably due to the increase in smartphone activity

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