Embracing the digital shift: adapting content and platforms to capture and engage younger TV audiences

In recent years, we have witnessed a remarkable transformation in content consumption, mainly driven by the internet and new technologies. However, it is important to recognise that traditional media still do not fully acknowledge that younger generations have little or no interest in consuming television in a traditional way. They have embraced digital channels and platforms as their main source of entertainment. In fact, in one of our home markets Spain, according to data from Appinio and Apache Digital, 25.8% of Spaniards say they never or at most a couple of times a month watch linear TV and prioritise on-demand content.

In addition, new data from the Spanish media research organization AIMC (Asociación para la Investigación de los Medios de Comunicación) reveals an upward trend in the consumption of OTT TV and SVOD. The percentage has increased from 68.4% in 2021 to 71.6% in 2022. This stands in stark contrast to the declining audiences observed in traditional television, which have decreased for the fourth consecutive year and now sit below 20% (19.6%) for the first time. These findings are further supported by GWI, which indicates that YouTube (74%), Netflix (70%), and Amazon (58%) are the three most frequently used platforms among the Alpha generation.

An even larger portion of the young generations’ attention is devoted to free video platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Twitch. Platforms that deliver a content experience that is fundamentally different from traditional media, as they rely heavily on user-generated content and foster a more interactive and relationship-based engagement model with their audience, turning anonymous viewers into recognized users.

In this context, it becomes crucial to understand how different generations embrace or resist these technological transformations. To adapt content to younger audiences, it is necessary to use the channels and media that they prefer and engage with on a regular basis. This means taking advantage of new platforms, social media and other digital tools to effectively reach this audience. Recognizing that both traditional and digital models can coexist is key to understanding the future developments within the industry in the coming years.

Adapting content to different platforms

To gain insight into the disparities between OTT and traditional broadcast media, it is essential to analyse the distinct consumption patterns across different generations. Moreover, it is crucial to adapt content to various platforms and cater to different generations.

When discussing platforms like TikTok or Instagram, most people associate them with a predominantly young audience, usually under the age of 40, although exceptions exist. Similarly, the opposite holds true for traditional channels such as radio and television.

The challenge for mainstream broadcasters lies in capturing the attention of both audiences, that is, how to attract younger generations and how to adapt content and strategies to their preferred platforms and preferences. In the context of new technologies, this has changed completely, and for many broadcasters, finding engagement with younger generations remains a persistent problem. Understanding the differences between internet-based media and traditional broadcast media involves analysing different generational consumption patterns.

Interacting with the audience

If we look at the content consumed by younger audiences on their favourite platforms, there is a fundamental difference in the relationship model with the audience. While traditional broadcast media often perceives the audience as anonymous and passive viewers, successful online media platforms strive to establish a relationship with their audience, making them a part of the show. This approach aims to convert viewers into active users and contributors through interactions and feedback on the platform, such as comments, likes, and shares, and even encourage users to contribute their own content, taking on roles as co-creators through commentary audio and reaction video. The viewer has an active role in this two-way relationship and is not just another member of the audience but expects to be able to participate and influence the content according to their preferences. When this happens, it is more likely that the content will continue to be consumed and shared, forming a relationship between the content creator and the audience, characterized by mutual feedback. In traditional media, however, interaction with the viewer is mainly limited to surveys or audience studies, which provide general information but do not allow for direct and immediate participation. The relationship between the media and the viewer is one-way, with viewers serving as passive receivers of content, with no option to express their opinion or exert influence. 

Customisation of platforms

In traditional media, we are used to linear and uniform programming, where content is produced and curated to fit a wide audience and broadcast at set times. A model where the sender, the broadcaster, controls and decides what, when and how the experience should unfold, assuming viewers pay their full attention to the TV. In contrast, internet-based platforms and digital channels allow users to create their own personalised programming. On a PC, especially when using multiple screens in a “game rig” setup, users can even control the rendering and display of the content. In this new world, getting exclusive and undivided attention is increasingly rare though. Media consumption often occurs simultaneously with other activities, such as playing games or consuming multiple forms of media.

Fighting to capture and sustain the viewers’ attention for as long as possible, digital media use algorithms and data analytics to understand viewer interests, preferences and behaviours. Platforms like TikTok, Twitch and Instagram are excellent examples of how personalisation has become a huge part of the digital experience and an important tool to keep the attention of users who have an abundance of alternatives just one click away on the internet.

However, there is a flip side to these algorithms and personalisation as it tends to lead to greater fragmentation of audiences and content. While traditional media seek to innovate and appeal to a broad audience, digital platforms allow viewers to immerse themselves in specific communities and niches. This personalisation also has a dark side. By receiving personalised content tailored to our preferences, we can fall into a ‘filter bubble’ that reinforces our existing beliefs and restricts our exposure to different perspectives.

Ultimately, traditional media face the challenge of adapting their content to the different platforms used by younger audiences, encouraging audience interaction and balancing personalisation with exposure to diverse viewpoints. This includes the actual production and curation of content, making it fit better into the expectations of a younger generation who prefers a shorter, faster and in-parallel media consumption style. Understanding and adapting to these changes is critical to success in today’s media environment.

Adopting personalization and interactivity involves establishing a model that includes the viewer as an active user, while at the same time honouring the purpose of traditional media and avoiding contributing to the creation of filter bubbles. One thing is certain: there is no one-size-fits-all formula, but it will be necessary to strike a balance between existing traditional models and the new digital platforms, while also exploring the potential for new innovative approaches.

This article was first published in Spanish by Redes&Teleco

by Johan Bolin

Chief Business Officer, Media and Broadcast of Agile Content