“Gen Z ranks Watching TV, Movies as fifth among top 5 entertainment activities”.
This headline referring to Deloitte’s 2021 Digital Media Trends survey should have triggered every TV network and production house to rethink how to reach and connect with this audience, the next generation of consumers.
For Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers watching TV and movies at home continued to be the overall favorite entertainment activity, with 57% ranking it in their top three. Gen Z, however, displays very different entertainment preferences than older age groups, according to Deloitte’s study.
Among Gen Z consumers in the U.S. (those currently aged 14-24), video games (26%) are their No. 1 entertainment activity, followed by listening to music (14%), browsing the Internet (12%), and engaging on social media (11%). Only 10% said watching TV or movies was their favorite entertainment pastime.
Now what do you do as a producer or network to reach this young audience with your TV show or movie?
Target video games & platforms
One strategy is to go where your target audience already is, namely video games/platforms. Last year, three of Christopher Nolan’s biggest films – The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Prestige – were shown in Fortnight’s Party Royale mode. Vice described the experience like “going to a drive-in theater with a group of barely controlled teens.” And it’s exactly this community aspect that’s important to Gen Z.
Watch parties have taken off in general over the last year as people stuck at home figured out ways to make watching TV shows and movies more social and interactive. For example, Twitch rolled out a Watch Parties function, giving streamers and their subscribers around the world the ability to watch Amazon’s library of movies and TV shows together. And Netflix paid attention as well by announcing their expansion into video games, which the company recently revealed as a new category “similar to our expansion into original films, animation and unscripted TV.” They’re also currently testing interactive polls on reality shows, including Too Hot to Handle and Love Is Blind.
Include Gen Z influencers
The second strategy is to include Gen Z influencers. Especially TikTok influencers are very popular with Gen Z. Hulu just launched The D’Amelio Show. An eight-part reality series that shows the D’Amelio family navigating the highs and lows of social media fame after the explosive success of daughters Charli and Dixie on TikTok.
Meanwhile, Addison Rae made her acting debut in He’s All That on Netflix. Since its debut to mixed reviews, the new film hit No. 1 on the service in 78 countries, including France, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, according to Netflix. And shortly after the release, it was also announced that Addison Rae signed a new multi-picture deal with Netflix.
These TikTok stars have millions of followers on different platforms and by creating shows for them, the streamers tap into their passionate fan bases. The Hype House, an L.A.-based TikTok collaborative house that once counted the D’Amelio sisters and Addison Rae as members, are also getting an unscripted reality series with Netflix.
Bring IPs familiar to Gen Z
The third strategy is to bring IP, the Gen Z audience is already familiar with, to streaming platforms and networks. Wattpad, for example, is a global platform with more than 90 million readers and writers. It aims to create social communities around stories for both, amateur and established writers. The Kissing Booth trilogy (Netflix) was a Wattpad story before it gained huge momentum. So was the case with After (Netflix), and Light As A Feather (Hulu), both of which started as stories on Wattpad.
These examples may be more female-skewed, but by merging with WEBTOON, the world’s largest digital comics platform, to create Wattpad WEBTOON Studios, Wattpad now have also access to more male-skewed comics IPs, including a creative partnership with DC.
Another company going into this direction is Los Angeles-based Tapas which has grown from a startup to a publishing powerhouse in the past decade. Tapas saw a 500% increase in year-over-year revenues in 2020, bringing in more than $2 million per month for its creators. The site’s popular titles such as The Beginning After the End and Magical Boy generate hundreds of millions of pageviews per month. In the aggregate, the company’s 99,000 original series of comics and prose novels by 64,000 creators have driven over 8 billion page views to date from more than 9M registered users , with an increasing average of 200 million monthly pageviews.
Stepping from the small screens of mobile devices to the bigger screens of TVs and cinemas is already common in Asia where webtoon series in a variety of genres are routinely tapped for K-drama and animated series. However it’s just starting to become a thing in the US. But to reach Gen Z, TV networks and studios should start paying attention to the next-gen genres, stories, creators, and platforms.
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