A study claims to reveal the ‘Truth about Youth’ with regard to video viewing in the United Kingdom. While those aged 16-24 on average watch less television programming than the general population, it still represents the majority of their video viewing, although the year on year decline in television viewing seems significant.

The research, based on industry data from 2014, including BARB, comScore and Ofcom, shows that television viewing, across live, playback and the video on demand services of broadcasters, dominates the viewing of all ages. It accounts for over 80% of all viewing across the population. The 16-24 age group has a more varied video diet, with television programming accounting for 65% of their viewing.

Video viewing in the United Kingdom in 2014.

Just less than half of all video viewing in this age group is of television at the time of transmission. Playback of recorded programmes and broadcaster video on demand services contribute a further 16% of all viewing, while discs add another 9%. Together, these sources account for three quarters of all video viewing.

YouTube, other online video and online ‘adult’ video each constitute around 7% of all video viewing in this age group.

Subscription video on demand services, like Netflix, represent 3.7% of all viewing for this group, compared to 2.2% for the population in general.

So the commonly held view that young adults are all watching Netflix rather than traditional television channels appears wide of the mark, at least in the United Kingdom.

Television still reaches 87% of all 16-24 years-olds in television homes in the United Kingdom every week and they watch 70% of their video via a television set.

It is probably no surprise that younger people watch relatively more online video than the general population.

They also watch less video in general, with an average of 3 hours 30 minutes a day, compared to 4 hours 20 minutes across all individuals.

The quantitative data was supplemented by qualitative research, including video recording using fixed and wearable cameras and discussions with young viewers.

The study suggests that the greater variety of video viewing among the 16-24 year olds is that they enjoy watching on tablets and smartphones, which account for 30% of their viewing, or twice as much as the national average.

They are also often constrained in their access and control of the main television screen, with competing demands from parents, siblings or friends in shared accommodation.

“There has been an immense amount of speculation about how younger audiences are watching TV and newer forms of video,” explained Matt Hill, the director of research and planning at Thinkbox, the marketing organization for commercial television in the United Kingdom.

“This research shows that newer forms of video have important roles to play in young people’s lives and that TV remains by far their favourite medium. Different video fulfils different needs and they co-exist happily.”

While television industry research tends to defend traditional models of viewing, this data is probably more robust than the online surveys and anecdotal evidence that are frequently presented as confirmation of a dramatic shift in television viewing among young adults.

BARB data shows that those aged 16-24 watched television for an average of 2 hours 18 minutes a day in 2014, compared to an average of 2 hours 36 minutes a day over the previous decade. That is a reduction of 18 minutes a day, or 11%, which is certainly significant, but hardly a complete rejection of television, unless of course the trend continues.

The Truth about Youth is published by Thinkbox with qualitative research conducted by Platypus Research.