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Nielsen explores changes in young-adult viewing behavior

April 16, 2013|By Meg James
  • A new report by Nielsen found that smartphone penetration is increasing among teens and young adults. Teens were most apt to watch videos on cellphones.
A new report by Nielsen found that smartphone penetration is increasing… (Nielsen )

Marketers increasingly are focused on teenagers and young adults who are coming of age during the digital revolution -- creating shifts in viewing behavior that likely will have profound consequences for television companies.

Ratings giant Nielsen on Tuesday released a study that explored viewing behavior of the so-called millennial generation -- the demographic roughly between the ages of 14 and 34.

The report found that younger Americans are more multicultural than older Americans. It also documented that teenagers were more likely to watch videos on their mobile phones than any other age group, explaining the mad rush by media companies and advertisers to figure out how to produce entertainment for phones and other portable devices. 

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"Teens like to watch on mobile more than anyone else," the Nielsen report said. "They watched 18% more video on their mobile phones than persons [ages] 18-24 and 46% more than persons [ages] 25-34 in the fourth quarter of 2012."

The question, according to Nielsen and other experts, is whether young consumers eventually will act more like their parents -- plopped in front of their television sets -- or forever connected to their phones to a greater degree than their computers or TV sets.

While there is no definitive answer, "Combined trends suggest that teens will continue to view content on mobile and the Internet as they age," Nielsen said.

That's not too surprising. Smartphone penetration has increased and companies are creating new applications and producing far more content for mobile devices than they were even two years ago.

TV companies have found that comedy bits work well on mobile, which should accelerate the networks' push to step up their comedy game.

This spring, NBC announced that it would replace "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno with comedian Jimmy Fallon next year in a bid to chase younger viewers. Fallon has been one of the most popular TV comedians online (although Fallon trails Ellen DeGeneres and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel in terms of YouTube channel views.)

What about the next generation?  Look for promising comedians such as Aziz Ansari to get increased exposure.

"Today’s teens and young adults are quite the multicultural bunch—with purchasing power to boot," Nielsen said. About 42% of young adults and teenagers are Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans.

"This is only the tip of the iceberg — U.S. Census data shows that African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics will generate the vast majority of the U.S. population growth over the next few decades," the report found.

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