From seniors to millennials, how Canadians are consuming content

MTM's large-scale survey paints a picture of how English-speaking Canadians engage with media.


By Jeromy Lloyd

A new study from Media Technology Monitor (MTM) proves some of the stereotypes we’ve come to believe about media technology and age groups, but there are a few surprising facts in the data that shows seniors, boomers and millennials aren’t quite so easy to fit into our preconceived buckets.

MTM’s Technology Through The Ages report on English-speaking Canadians tracked changes in technology use among 6,000-plus people through two surveys conducted in Fall 2016 and Summer 2017.

Boomers and devices

boomersmtmThe study broke this cohort into two main groups: younger boomers aged 51 to 60, and older boomers aged 61 to 71. Together, they represent approximately 34% of the Canadian population and have the highest concentration of households with annual income over $150,000.

Smartphones have found a comfortable home with this demo – 78% of younger boomers and 66% of older boomers report ownership (with iPhones representing the most popular brand). Younger boomers are more likely to own tablets (58% versus 51%), on par with the report’s Anglophone participants. A healthy number of the younger demo also have gaming consoles – 41% report owning a Nintendo, Microsoft or Sony game system, compared to 63% of younger Anglophones overall.

Boomers over-index on desktop computer usage – 56% versus 50% of all Anglophones – and don’t appear as interested in wearable technology as the overall study group (with Fitbit having some uptake among 13% of younger boomers and 11% of older ones versus the Anglophone rate of 19%).

Boomers and media

· The vast majority of older boomers still have a TV subscription (86%), compared to 91% of Anglophones over 72 years old and 65% of millennials (18 to 35).
· While 21% of millennial Canadians say they have no TV subscription but watch that content online, only 5% of young boomers say they have done so. Meanwhile, 21% of younger boomers are “very or somewhat” likely to cancel that subscription.
· More than 25% of boomers said they have shaved the cord and cut channels out of their packages.
· Boomers are not as likely to have subscribed to an OTT service as younger anglophones, however the study noted that younger boomers are, perhaps surprisingly, slightly more likely than younger Anglophones to subscribe to CraveTV and Sportsnet Now.
· Around 55% of older boomers watch TV exclusively on a traditional TV set, compared to around 20% for younger Anglophones. Only one in 20 boomers reported watching TV exclusively online.
· When it comes to YouTube, roughly one in ten boomers watch full-length TV content on Google-owned platform. However, younger boomers (11%) are more likely to watch a full-length movie on YouTube than older boomers (6%).

Seniors and devices

seniorscomputerPerhaps unsurprisingly, Canadians over 72 years of age demonstrate the strongest affinity for traditional TV, traditional radio and traditional news platforms. More than nine out of 10 pay for conventional TV, nearly half have newspaper subscriptions and 83% report heavy viewing of news specialty channels.

Device use is also predictably lower among older Canadians, though not entirely ignorable. Eighteen per cent say they access the internet via a TV set, and 24% own a smart TV. Another 68% own a computer, with laptops surprisingly edging out desktops (47% versus 44%).

Smartphone ownership tops out at 36% penetration of this group, with tablets appearing in roughly as many senior households (33%). Another 25% of seniors report owning a “basic” or feature phone.

Seniors and media

· Of the 91% of seniors who have a TV subscription, 11% were identified as being “very” or “somewhat likely” to become a cord cutter.
· Seniors spend 22.1 hours per week watching traditional TV, compared with 10.8 hours for younger Anglophones. However, seniors are not binge-viewing like other age segments, as much of their viewing is done offline. Among binge-viewing seniors, the preferred method is scheduled TV marathons, with 34% bingeing in this manner.
· This demographic over-indexes on CBC News Network and CTV News Channel viewing compared to all Anglophone respondents; 70% said they watch the public broadcaster’s channel, while 65% tune into Bell Media’s CTV channel.
· Online news reading is comparatively low among seniors – 34% versus 73% of all English speakers. The most popular online sites for those over 72 were those of news broadcasters and newspapers. Computers won out over smartphones and tablets as the devices of choice for online news reading.

Millennials and devices

millennialshutterstockThe study split its youngest demographic into older and younger sub-groups – Gen Z, which range in age from 18 to 27, and Gen Y, ranging from 28 to 35 years.

Smartphones lie at the heart of millennial media use and device choices, with more than 94% of both groups reporting ownership of such a device. It sits as Gen Y’s preferred screen for online video content, preferred multitasking tool (85%) and more than 80% of Gen Z and Y using smartphones for social networking – the most popular device for such activity by far.

The older Gen Y report higher rates of tablet use than their younger peers (60% compared to 45%) and the overall Anglophone market (56%). The same goes for wearable technology, with 27% of Gen Y using devices such as Fitbits and Apple Watches versus 20% of Gen Z and 19% of the overall English market.

Gaming consoles also appear in the majority of millennial households, with 64% of Gen Y and 63% of Gen Z owning a Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft system.

Millennials and media

· The majority of millennials still have access to a cable subscription – 57% of Gen Y and 55% of Gen Z. But they are also the most prolific users of online TV. Gen Y reported online video use at 30% and Gen Z followed close behind at 27% (versus 7% of Anglophones overall).
· This group is far more likely to own an internet-connected television compared to English-speaking Canadians overall, at 69% of Gen Y and 61% of Gen Z, versus 44% of all Anglophones.
· OTT TV services such as Netflix, CraveTV and Amazon Prime do well with this cohort when compared to the overall market, with only 49% of all English speakers reporting using such services compared to 72% of Gen Y and 76% of Gen Z. According to the report, 75% of Gen Z subscribes to Netflix, ahead of Gen Y (68%) and older Anglophones (44%). The study also noted that 5% in the Gen Z age bracket subscribe to CraveTV, with 12% of Gen Y and 9% of older anglophones subscribing to the service.
· In addition to the popularity of short-form video content, more than a third of millennials said they watched long-form film and TV content on YouTube.
· Approximately 25% of millennials say they watch TV online only and do not watch any traditional linear TV.
· Gen Z and Gen Y are equally likely to have tried out virtual reality. They are also more likely to own their own VR headset, with penetration levels standing at 7%.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

From Media in Canada, with files from Jordan Pinto