Why Your Teen Prefers Social Media to Streaming Movies

It’s all about the action

  • Young people are turning away from streaming services in favor of social media and gaming, according to a new study. 
  • One expert attributes the switch away from streaming to recent "massive improvements" in the gaming industry.
  • Observers say that social media, streaming, and gaming will blur together in the near future.
A group of teens using their smartphones in the park.

Maskot / Getty Images

Young people are ditching the TV remote in favor of online entertainment that's more social and interactive, experts say. 

Users under 18 are turning away from streaming services in favor of social media and gaming, according to a new study by Deloitte. Nearly half of US respondents say they watch more user-generated content than they did six months ago, and half say they always spend more time watching it than they had planned. 

"The appeal of social media and games are obvious; it's where their friends are, and it's how they communicate," Mike Metzler, a senior digital marketing manager at Conviva, which monitors streaming media, told Lifewire in an email interview. "You have a whole generation of kids now who don't communicate through text; they use Snapchat. Those same kids view hanging out virtually and playing Fortnite together [the same] as hanging out in person."

Getting Together Online

Deloitte's survey revealed that streaming services struggle to attract and retain subscribers who have become savvier about chasing the content they want and managing the costs they pay. This is especially true with younger generations who have grown up with smartphones, social media, and video games and prefer entertainment experiences that are more social and interactive. 

"The web and all it offers is no longer a destination or a place we occasionally visit," Kevin Westcott, vice-chair, Deloitte LLP and U.S. technology, media, and telecom leader, said in a news release. "It's become an integral part of our lives, and young generations are particularly adapted to the blurring of real and virtual experiences. For now, streaming video, social media, and gaming are very successful, but changing behaviors are pointing towards the next wave of digital entertainment."

TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube are where young people spend their time these days, and each platform is used for different purposes, Metzler said. 

"TikTok is for short bursts of entertainment that you can pick up and set down, Snapchat is for communicating with friends, Instagram is for documenting their life, and YouTube is for longer-form video content," he added. 

Aaron Thomas, a Gen Z Content Creator and Social Media Expert at Salience Search Marketing, said in an email interview that there have been recent "massive improvements" in the gaming industry. The release of the PS5, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch OLED consoles has reignited interest in gaming, he added.  

"This has made a huge jump in appealing to young enthusiastic gamers and has also helped the industry gain a huge following from the younger generation," Thomas said. "With games for all ages and different stories or objectives to complete, this will encourage younger people to pick up the pad and get gaming into these magical worlds."

The Future of Entertainment

In the near future, social media, streaming, and gaming are going to blur together, Metzler said. That's why Netflix is buying game studios, WWE is live streaming WrestleMania events on TikTok, and social media is the first place streaming platforms go to promote new streaming content. 

Midsection view of two teens sitting side-by-side, using their smartphones.

Maskot / Getty Images

A recent report by Conviva found that people who stream more are also more active on social media. Streaming companies are going to continue to invest heavily in social media platforms. 

"You're also going to see significant investment from streaming platforms building out communities on social media that is not focused on a specific region or TV show but rather on shared interests," Metzler said. "Netflix's Twitter accounts @strongblacklead, @NetflixGeeked, @Uppercut are great examples."

In Conviva's Content Discovery report, "watching videos" ranked among the top activities on social media, with nearly three in five social media users saying they watch at least one minute of a video in a typical week and a half saying they watch a full video. 

"But in 2022, we can expect to see more longer-format videos than we have in the past," Metzler said. "You can see examples of this already happening as TikTok extends their video limit for uploads to 10 minutes, and it's why you see YouTube starting to stream free-ad supported TV shows for the first time."

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