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Size Matters, Even to Millennials

15 Oct, 2015 By: Thomas K. Arnold


The doom-and-gloomers smell blood, and they’re acting like sharks on a feeding frenzy.

The home entertainment industry is collapsing. Not only is the disc business kaput, thanks to Netflix and the millennial generation’s inherent dislike of ownership, but even the home theater systems we’ve all saved up for and installed in our family rooms are an endangered species because, on top of all those other attributes, millennials don’t give a rat’s hiney about screen size. They’d just as soon watch movies on their smartphones.

I love how we judge, generalize and assume.

The problem is, assumptions are often wrong, particularly when they are based on faulty generalizations and judgments.

Could it be we are mistaking tolerance for preference?

Here’s my take on the matter, as the father of three teenage boys and a guy who likes to ingest lots of information, research and studies, not just those that reinforce the latest trendy assumptions.

My youngest son, Hunter, loves to play video games. When the rest of the family is watching a movie or TV show on the 65-inch Panasonic in our family room that he doesn’t want to watch, he’ll stay in his room, playing Dead Island or Call of Duty on the PlayStation hooked up to his computer monitor with a gaggle of networked friends.

But as soon as we are done, he’ll come downstairs and resume his game play on the big TV.

The other day, I gave a friend of middle son Conner a ride home from a high school cross-country track meet. He was watching a movie clip on his smartphone, so I asked him what he was watching. “Just a few previews on YouTube,” he said. Turns out, his parents were out for the night and he had very little homework, so he was looking forward to watching a whole movie on the family room widescreen. He was using his smartphone to narrow down his choices.

And up in the tiny college town of Arcata, where my oldest son, Justin, is studying at Humboldt State University, a funky little video rental store near the central plaza is always teeming with customers. The town’s primary Internet provider, Suddenlink, isn’t all that great, so watching Netflix can be a real hassle.

Moreover, when Justin was living in the dorm he’d brave the poor connection and stream movies on his Apple desktop or iPad. Now that he’s in an apartment, I asked him what he wants for Christmas and the first words out of his mouth were, “The biggest TV you can afford.”
I know where I will be on Black Friday.

These anecdotes are supported by research. In a July blog posting, Bob Pearson, president of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies, writes about his company’s latest survey about the entertainment habits of millennials. “Big screens still win — 63% of millennials surveyed said that their favorite place to watch a movie is on their TV at home and 25% would rather visit a movie theatre,” Pearson writes. “Back when the Boomers were growing up, that was the consensus as well … yet there wasn’t an option to show a movie on one’s iPhone, tablet, iPad, computer, etc. It is looking like big screens will continue to win when it comes to entertainment. Gaming on a phone, sure. Sitting down to watch a movie for 90 minutes?  The couch and a big screen will always be more fun.”

As for cord-cutting, a new Nielsen study released in September suggests millennials may part ways with their cord-free streaming addictions once they start families. According to a New York Times article on the study, “The decision to go without a traditional cable or satellite service and rely exclusively on Internet streaming video might last only until millennials start families, new Nielsen research on the media habits of the 18-34 age group suggests.” The study found that among millennials who live in their own homes and have started families, 80% subscribe to cable, while just 6% rely solely on broadband connected to the Internet.

The Times concludes, “Millennials, more than a fifth of the total American TV audience of about 292 million adults and children, are considered crucial to the future of television because marketers covet their high earning potential and receptivity to ads. Yet with much of media in flux, their viewing habits continue to confound researchers.”

So we don’t really know all that much about millennials and their future viewing habits. Maybe, just maybe, they live and breathe streaming at this point in their lives because it’s cheap and conducive to their for-the-moment lifestyles.

But once they settle down, once they grow up, they just might want more choice. They might not have time for binge-viewing a TV series; they might not have the stomach for another 9-year-old ‘B’ movie.

They might want something new, something fresh, even if it means paying for it, either as a download or on a disc. And they might want to watch it on the biggest damn TV they can afford.



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