Study: Gen Z Audiences Heavy Users of Mobile Devices While Watching TV

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SAN FRANCISCO—New research from Samba TV highlights the importance of streaming media, mobile phones and social media for marketers trying to reach the elusive “streaming first” generation of adults aged 18-26 who are often referred to as Gen Z. 

Samba TV’s analysis indicates that streaming platforms are the go-to destination for content consumption for the Gen Z demo and that mobile devices play a crucial role in their television viewing behaviors. 

The data also reveals that Gen Z frequently shops online while watching TV, creating an opportunity for advertisers to drive instant omniscreen outcomes. Additionally, the findings further highlight entertainment platforms and social media apps are the top sources for discovering new shows and movies, with TikTok being the most turned-to destination for this demographic. 

“It’s always been important for advertisers to drive performance, but a necessity today is how well you can reach Gen Z — a highly elusive segment of the population,” said Samba TV co-founder and CEO Ashwin Navin. “This generation is reshaping how content is consumed across every screen, highlighting a critical need for advertisers to embrace an omniscreen approach that connects all the dots of where these audiences watch TV today.”

One key finding is that Gen Z engages with TV differently than any other generation. As the only demographic that exclusively grew up in a cord-cutting world, Gen Z are big consumers of streaming services today. Eight in 10 Gen Z-ers watch TV via streaming services. 65% of Gen Z do not have access to a traditional cable TV subscription.

In addition the Samba TV survey of 2,500 U.S. adults found that Gen Z leverages mobile devices more often than any other audience demographic while consuming television, with 85% of Gen Z looking at a mobile device while watching TV. Nearly half (47%) of Gen Z shop online when watching TV. 

The survey found that 44% of Gen Z have paused an ad on TV to look up a product or make a purchase and 34% of Gen Z have purchased a product through a QR code shown on a TV ad.

Samba TV is also reporting that entertainment platforms and social media apps are the #1 way Gen Z-ers find what to watch next. Over three quarters of Gen Z visit entertainment platforms and social media apps to find relevant recommendations and ideas for what to watch. Gen Z viewers make TikTok their top entertainment platform (69%) followed by social media app Instagram (64%).

This survey was conducted online within the United States from March 23-27, 2023 among 2,506 adults in the United States by HarrisX.

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.