Digital Video Dominates Expanding Media Diet of 13-24 Year Old Viewers – Younger Audience Declare It’s The Content That Fills Their Day and Feeds Their Needs

Fourth Annual ACUMEN Report Finds Video Viewing Increasingly Social, but YouTube Still Rules This Set, While TV’s Spot Falls Further Behind

LOS ANGELES--()--DEFY Media, the top digital producer and programmer focused on the influential 13-34 demographic, today announced findings from its fourth annual ACUMEN Report: Youth Video Diet, conducted in partnership with Kelton Global and Hunter Qualitative. While last year’s findings illuminated 13-24 year old consumers’ deep connection with digital content and its rising stars - this year’s report focused on uncovering exactly where and when they’re watching, what they’re willing to pay for, and what ads they are willing to watch.

For the majority of today’s Gen Z and young millennial consumers, video is their daily lifeline. According to the report, they’re on “watch” from the start of their day (65% report viewing before school or work) straight through to the evening hours (67% watch while falling asleep), with barely a break in between. Moreover, despite academic or career pursuits, over 40% engage while at school or on the job. Video platforms provide the connections they can’t live without – all day long – continuing to push TV further behind as a must have. Respondents unanimously shared video’s critical role in super-serving a diverse set of needs that TV just can’t satisfy, and that go well beyond daily amusement.

“Since last year’s report, the industry has experienced an explosion of new video platforms which increase the total addressable market for video viewing but also raise competition for the coveted attention of young viewers,” commented Andy Tu, DEFY Media’s EVP of Marketing. “The findings prove younger audiences’ increasing appetite for digital video that's satisfying a diverse set of needs, and the importance of understanding preferences or risk being easily tuned out.”

The survey includes both quantitative and qualitative research methods, to provide a comprehensive and thoughtful view of Gen Z and young Millennials media behaviors, content consumption and influencers.

Daily Requirements

Video consumption is now an essential part of younger audience’s daily intake – as natural to them as the required dose of sleeping and eating – and with a growing supply of media platforms catering to their content cravings, that share of the pie continues to widen. Interestingly, convenience remains an important but not necessary precondition to viewing, with respondents sharing a high propensity for watching videos on a laptop or desktop (66% vs. 76% for smartphone).

Among the most highly-viewed video platforms, the report shows that YouTube still reigns with 85% of respondents stating it’s their #1 go-to. Netflix falls just behind at 66%, TV at 62%, and Facebook, 53%. But, when it comes to the sources they “CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT”, TV seems to be the first sacrifice. YouTube is the clear winner again at 67%, Netflix at 51%, with social media sources (net of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Tumblr) coming close at 48% as video play significantly rises on these platforms. TV falls to almost half that of YouTube, with only 36% stating they can’t live without the traditional tube.

Yet, there is a divide – it appears that age does matter when you get past these sources. For younger viewers ages 13-18, their next “must-have” is Vine. For the older set (19-24), Hulu and Blu-Ray/DVD show priority.

Social (Video) Climbing

While we know that younger audiences are inherently social and it comes as no surprise that social media drives their daily connections and need for self-expression, this year we see the bold emergence of video consumption across these platforms. In fact - and most telling - are the results showing that for Facebook, more consumers (60%) use the platform for social and video vs. 40% for social purpose alone. That’s a jump from use across other platforms like Instagram and Snapchat where video and social vs. just social use is on par (48% vs. 52% for both) and where Twitter and Tumblr have also grabbed a small portion of that pie (31% and 30%, respectively) .

And while one may assume viewers are primarily watching videos of family and friends across these platforms, the report highlights that only 14% view this type of video on social media. Twenty-four percent say they watch mostly videos featuring their favorite digital celebs, with that same percentage reported for videos with people they do not know personally, such as pranks or fails popular with this audience. When asked if they watch video of TV/Movie stars, just half that figure (11%) said yes.

Time spent watching video further emphasizes viewer’s affinity for social video. Reported time spent watching video on social and free online sources combined equaled 12.1 hours weekly, trumping viewing on either subscription services (such as Netflix, Amazon or Hulu, among others) which tallied at 8.8 or Cable/Satellite TV which landed at 8.2 hours when compared.

So Satisfying

As part of this year’s report, ACUMEN explores the different needs that various video platforms may meet throughout the day. For these 13-24 year old consumers, boredom is not an option. While 77% turn to digital video for those “boredom killer” moments, it turns out that youth can’t live without it because of many other needs these platforms fulfill.

Digital video satisfies a wide variety of needs respondents stated as priorities - whether it’s a mood lifter (57%), stress reliever (61%), the reason to stay up to date on what’s trending or new (60%), to learn how to do something (47%) or to lull oneself to sleep (44%). Digital video was also not only for solo viewing - 58% say it’s about family together time. The rise in digital video can be attributed to more than just accessibility; it also caters to a broader set of need states beyond sheer amusement.

Cord Cutting vs. Cost Cutting

TV still has a role, but its terrestrial nature and the fact they don’t view the content or personalities as relevant or relatable continues to challenge its place in their daily diet - and in the household - a hefty 38% of those surveyed stated they did not have a cable/satellite box. Of this set, the financially independent respondents made it clear that the choice not to subscribe is not always about the economics. While 40% say there are less expensive options, 24% are just not interested in the content TV offers. For those that can afford it, almost 20% say the cost is not worthwhile. For those whose households do have a cable connection, the cord is another benefit of still living under mom and dad’s roof, where someone else still foots the bill. When financially dependent youth leave home, just 56% say they plan to subscribe to cable/satellite TV compared to 86% who plan to subscribe to Netflix.

When it comes to certain digital video connections, responses show some things are worth paying for, or at least paying for some of the cost. Among users almost half (48%) report paying for a sports app, while Amazon gets support from 50% of youth, 55% for Hulu, and 56% for HBO or Showtime apps.

Appetizing Ads

Last year’s ACUMEN report revealed the growing and significant influence of YouTube personalities, as well as viewer’s preference for content featuring these new digital celebs (43% of 13-17 year olds opened content featuring their favorite talents). That study also showed 63% would try a product or brand recommended by a YouTube star vs. 48% by a TV/Movie star. This year ACUMEN dug deeper into that connection to uncover what message matters to them and answer whether all ads are created equal.

Growing ease to ‘ad block’ is giving rise to industry fears that interrupting young audiences’ valuable space and time comes with the real risk they will, and can, turn you off forever. The strength of digital talents’ relationship with their viewers has also given rise to more marketers leveraging the power of these influencers to break through youth’s screens in a more meaningful and entertaining manner. These savvy viewers know they can turn you off, but they also understand it’s just business and are willing to watch so their favorite personalities can earn. Sixty-three percent agree that digital celebrities need ads on their channels to make a living and a significant 58% say they don’t mind watching ads to support them.

But, how those advertisements are delivered still matters. While pre-roll continues to drop in favor - just over half (53% ) are ok with that 1-minute spot while still preferring a 15-second commercial which gets that figure to 80%, it’s the well-produced branded content or non-invasive intro/outro that rises to the top with this group. A whopping 89% say the 5-second intro featuring a brand sponsor is always or sometimes “OK” (88% for the end screen), 87% approve of product placement in a video, the same goes for digital talents actually demonstrating a product or calling out a sponsor.

For more on what’s driving youth’s media preferences, DEFY Media recently partnered with VARIETY for a deep dive into SNAPCHAT’s rising status with this audience – read it here.


DEFY Media partnered with Hunter Qualitative and Kelton Global to research the Youth Video Diet. From greater Chicago, Raleigh-Durham and Seattle, 54 youth ages 13-24 years were selected to complete 14-day journals chronicling the videos watched daily and providing information on habits and opinions. Twenty-seven of these youth were interviewed in-person―eighteen ages 13-17 in “buddy pairs” and nine ages 19-24 individually. These interviews were followed with an online survey of 1,300 youth ages 13-24 representative of the U.S. population by age, gender, ethnicity/race and parental education.

About DEFY Media

DEFY Media is the top digital producer and programmer for 13-34 year olds, and the largest owner of YouTube channels and leading media brands across the comedy, lifestyle and gaming verticals. Each month, DEFY-produced content generates 600 million video views and reaches 125 million viewers across our 60 million YouTube subscribers, 80 million unique web visitors and consumers of our apps, which have been downloaded over 25 million times. DEFY Media brands include Smosh, recently named by Variety as the top brand for 13-17 year olds, Break, known for its top program “Prank It Forward”™, and Screen Junkies, home to the highly influential digital series “Honest Trailers”. The world’s top brands partner with DEFY to build immersive advertising solutions that deliver unparalleled access to this influential audience. With uniquely integrated capabilities in content development, studio production, distribution and promotion, DEFY Media is built for content delivery in the digital age. Please visit us at


DEFY Media
Jodi Smith-Bulhack, 212-329-8359
Laura Michael, 310-601-3211


DEFY Media
Jodi Smith-Bulhack, 212-329-8359
Laura Michael, 310-601-3211