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Binge Boom: Young U.S. Viewers Gulp Down Average of Six TV Episodes per Sitting

Devouring multiple TV episodes in one sitting has increasingly become the way many Americans — especially teens and young adults — experience television.

About 73% of U.S. consumers say they have binge-watched video content, defined as watching three or more episodes of a show in one session, according to Deloitte’s annual “Digital Democracy Survey.” That’s up from 68% who said they engaged in marathon TV-watching two years ago.

And binge-watching TV is more popular among youngsters. About 90% of millennials (20-33) and 87% of Gen Z (ages 14-19) have binge-watched video content. On a weekly basis, almost 40% of those demographic cohorts binge-watch TV, compared with 29% overall — reporting an average of six episodes, or about five hours of content, in a single sitting, Deloitte found.

As far as viewing devices, TVs are losing their appeal among younger generations. Gen Z and millennials spend about half their time watching TV shows and movies on devices other than a television set, according to Deloitte survey. Meanwhile, Gen X-ers (aged 34-50) favor TVs by over 60% and Baby Boomers (51-69) watch over 80% of programming on TVs.

When it comes to media consumption, “the consumer rules,” said Kevin Westcott, head of Deloitte’s U.S. media and entertainment practice. “The shift to streaming, mobile, on-demand services and personalization are significant opportunities in 2017.”

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About 49% of U.S. consumers subscribe to at least one paid streaming video service (and nearly 60% of those 50 and under do so). Pay-TV subscriptions have held steady: 74% of consumers across U.S. households say they subscribe to cable, satellite or telco TV. Bundling is a key reason: Two-thirds of pay-TV consumers said they keep their TV subscriptions because it is bundled with their internet service.

Meanwhile, young viewers multitask heavily. The survey found that 99% of millennials and Gen Z are engaged in other activities while watching TV, with an average of four additional activities (such as texting, web browsing, using social networks, reading email or online shopping).

Deloitte’s 11th edition “Digital Democracy Survey” was fielded online from Nov. 4-16, 2016, and polled 2,131 U.S. consumers aged 14 and older. Results were weighted to be representative of the U.S. population.

Other findings from this year’s survey:

  • Online video ads: More than 80% of consumers will skip an online video ad if that’s allowed, and 46% said they pay more attention to an ad they can skip versus an ad they cannot skip.
  • Mobile ads: 67% percent of consumers find mobile ads on their phone to be irrelevant; however, 37% said they find it valuable to receive location-based ads on their smartphones.
  • Social media: Over half of Gen Z and millennials use social networks to learn about new TV shows, with friend recommendations edging out TV ads as a source of discovery. About 33% of millennial/Gen Z respondents get their news primarily from social media (versus 19% across all age groups) while 21% of younger consumers said TV is their favorite source of news (compared with 40% overall).

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