Gen Z and Millennials turning to smartphones for entertainment as research shows demand has skyrocketed

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Premium content is driving a surge in mobile video consumption and daily engagement has grown over 25% in 2020, with one in two consumers enjoying premium content on their smartphone every day.

Gen Z and Millennials are also spending more minutes with mobile entertainment, with 70% of consumers watching more video on their smartphone compared to 2019.

The average smartphone screen time has on average increased from two hours per day in 2014, to a new high of three hours and 19 minutes per day in 2020.

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During the pandemic, 84% of Gen Z and Millennial consumers said mobile video has helped them cope with new anxieties and stay in touch with loved ones while physically apart.

Global health crisis plays into the hands of the smartphone generationGlobal health crisis plays into the hands of the smartphone generation
Global health crisis plays into the hands of the smartphone generation

A new study released by the National Research Group (NRG) and Snapchat today examines how demand for TV-quality mobile content is growing faster than ever (27% year-on-year) thanks to soaring consumer demand for high production values, immersive storytelling and shared cultural moments that are made for mobile and shot in vertical display.

The study shows that premium mobile video, once seen as an ‘extra’, now creates TV-like moments, powered by the intimacy of a smartphone. 74% of those surveyed say video that fills the screen vertically feels more personal and immersive, with the ability to facilitate instant communication with friends a key driver for the premium short form.

Consumers are turning to short-form video to watch on their own terms, matching their schedules and time commitments. 83% of Gen Zs and Millennials say short-form premium content fits well into their days, while three in four associate short-form premium video with being a ‘well-deserved escape’, something that was once only associated with bigger screens. More broadly, global mobile viewership is growing 6% annually, outpacing growth on all other video platforms.

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Since the pandemic, media consumption has increased across every screen type. Covid-19 is accelerating trends for mobile as the report finds consumers are watching content on phones for 33 minutes longer than on TV sets in 2020, with mobile viewing projected to continue growing in the coming years.

With mobile video viewership outpacing other platforms for share of media time (eMarketer, Global Digital Video 2020*), long gone are the days where mobile video is simply a time filler. Unsurprisingly, Gen Z, who were practically born with a smartphone in hand, has driven this shift. And for this group, it's not just about entertainment. According to the study, more than 8 in 10 consumers turn to short-form premium content to get their news fix and to participate in the conversation.

Discover, Snapchat’s content platform, launched in the U.K in 2015 as a place for its community to be both informed and entertained by professional storytellers. In 2018, Shows launched in the U.K., significantly expanding premium video content from UK creators offering users more choice and more perspectives. Last week, during its earning call, Snap shared that the global daily average number of Snapchatters watching Shows increased by over 45% year-over-year, and that the company added more than 180 new Discover channels in that quarter.

Furthermore, Channel 4 and Snap recently announced a new partnership which will see upwards of 300 short-form episodes of Channel 4 content aired on Snapchat and delivered to the platform across the next 12 months. In June, Hollyoaks became the first British daily soap to be featured on the platform.

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Ed Couchman, UK general manager of Snap Inc. said: “The practice of storytelling has always been a fundamental part of human nature and this study clearly shows that mobile video has a significant part to play. For the mobile first Gen Z, mobile video content isn’t just about convenience, it is fundamental to how they stay both entertained and informed. The industry is snowballing as we see media companies and content creators taking note of this continually accelerating trend. They have been crafting bespoke and innovative content and see massive payoffs in terms of reach and engagement.”

Matt Risley, Head of 4Studio said: “We want to serve our audiences in all the places where they like to consume and interact with TV content, maximising time spent with Channel 4 shows across multiple platforms and devices. If young consumers are increasingly demanding a TV-like experience within their social universe - premium content from trusted sources viewed in full screen with the sound-on – it makes sense for us to be there to build a relationship with them in those spaces too. Our partnership with Snapchat allows us to do just that.”

Jonny Keogh, Audience Development and Partnerships Manager, Sky Sports added: “Video content creation isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach for us. There are many different strands depending on a particular match or sport. It includes match highlights, stat previews, quote pieces, listicles, pundit analysis, archive packages and so much more. We then strategically distribute this content to fit the tone and nature of the platforms we’re on; both our owned and operated, as well as social. We put audience and engagement data at the heart of production, with the aim of creating best-in-class content, to delight and stay relevant to sports fans. For Snapchat in particular, we’ve built a large and loyal audience over the last five years so we see a unique opportunity to engage younger audiences with vertical video content every day. Whilst millions of views on a single piece of content is rewarding, it’s habitual usage and retaining that audience which is the most valuable metric we work hard towards achieving every day.”

Alex Morris, Creative Director, Barcroft Studios said: “We’ve seen fantastic growth on Snap, reaching up to 50 million young people per month with original content. Great stories and storytelling really cut through with young audiences, and we see the same appetite as you would in more traditional formats. The key is learning to tell stories in a new medium and Snap is a fantastic creative opportunity where you can play with the form through split screen, on screen text and graphics to really keep the viewer in the action - it’s a more immediate format that’s consumed by an audience on the move.”

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Melissa Chapman, Chief Content and Brand Officer, Jungle Creations commented: 'Snapchat is now a focal point of our media strategy and we now have seven shows running on the platform. As a social-first publisher, we have seen an increase in demand for more serialised, episodic and high-quality original content, which is driven largely by Gen Z, who have basically grown up inside their phones. Social platforms aren't just another place for them to go to watch a few videos, they are THE place to go, the primary destination. Therefore as publishers, we have a responsibility to serve them with the best content. As a result, we hired a Programming Director to help us accelerate our delivery of this - which has meant longer dwell times, increased engagement and a strengthened relationship with Gen Z. For example, we have increased the number of series we’re producing for our media brand Twisted six-fold over the last four months, including several original shows produced specifically for Snapchat.”

National Research Group conducted a second annual online quantitative study on behalf of Snap Inc., collecting responses among UK smartphone owners ages 13-35 who had watched video on their mobile phones in the past week.

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