Survey: The Growing Demographic Divide Across Media Platforms 

Illustration of a dinosaur crossed with an old TV set
Illustration: VIP+: Adobe Stock

Note: This article is based on Variety Intelligence Platform’s special report “Demographic Divide,” available solely to subscribers.

The digital era, once offering promise to established media companies, is becoming a poisoned chalice. 

Instead of controlling new formats that have been embraced by consumers, many old media companies misunderstood what digital offered and are now forced to play expensive games of catch-up or risk becoming obsolete for younger viewers. 

VIP+’s “Demographic Divide” report, produced in collaboration with consumer insights specialist GetWizer, highlights the increasing need for media and entertainment businesses rooted in tradition to quickly embrace the new reality. 

A key factor behind this idea is the distribution of platforms used by each age group. Younger consumers are less likely to use traditional formats such as cable and broadcast TV, instead opting for podcasts, social media and gaming alongside streaming services and TV networks.  

Boiled down, this means that in order to reach younger consumers, media companies must begin to target consumers on their own terms, utilizing social and free streaming platforms as new ways to distribute content. 

News viewership is a case study in this. Around one in five 15-29s say they regularly watch national or local news, in stark contrast to more than half of those 60+ reporting watching. This is one reason why many local stations have launched FAST channels, as have ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS for national news. 

This is a good first step for news, but it should not be the only step. In order to maximize total possible reach, news stations must embrace livestreaming on services like Twitch and Instagram, thus reaching consumers on their own terms. 

Radio is another medium that may need to embrace other formats to maintain its long-term health. While around half of consumers over 45 agree they like to listen to the radio, only a quarter of 15-29s do, with younger consumers more likely to prefer streaming music services.  

Leaning into the role that hosts play, as SiriusXM has begun to do, is a way to try and counter this. Most media has yet to embrace the YouTube-led content-creator generation, and the influence it has on their audience. Creating alternative digital radio stations curated by influencers may be a way for radio stations to safeguard their future, especially if done in tandem with emerging media platforms. 

The influence of the likes of YouTube and TikTok is apparent when asking consumers if they could watch all day without being bored. This peaks with 15-29s but shows just how strong these new media mediums are.  

Such is one reason why VIP+ advocates for traditional media to embrace these formats as alternatives to distribution, as it will both boost brand relevancy among younger viewers while leading to increased monetization opportunities.  

It’s clear consumer tastes are shifting, yet many in traditional media have maintained hope that as they grow older, consumers will return to the older formats. This is a very risky bet, with companies better off working with consumer demand in order to avoid the long-term risk of extinction. 

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