When it comes to television consumption, Americans are increasingly on two separate tracks. On one side, the vast majority of consumers are watching television the same way they always have. With many younger viewers, television isn’t necessarily even just on TV anymore — it’s increasingly consumed as streaming video on mobile devices, tablets, computers and more.
This latter trend is especially prevalent on college campuses. A report from Deloitte last year illustrated that, at home, 56 percent of the television consumed by the 14- to 24-year-old demographic is done on a computer, smartphone, tablet or gaming device. On campus and in dorm rooms — where students are more mobile and often on tighter budgets or lack other amenities — it’s likely even more widespread. All students need laptops, but not all require televisions.
How and What Are They Watching?
Students generally have two options for how and when they watch TV. They can watch the program live — via traditional “appointment TV” — where they tune in to a certain channel at a certain time or they can watch the program on demand, queuing the program up to watch when they’re able. This option is sometimes called time-shifting. From a content perspective, we’re starting to see more parity across live and on-demand platforms. If a TV program is airing live, it will most likely be available afterwards on an on-demand platform to watch at the viewer’s convenience.
Recent data from Xfinity on Campus, Comcast’s new TV service for universities that delivers both live and on-demand programming directly to the devices of students living on campus, gives us an interesting look at how students use both platforms.
The most-watched shows on-demand were, in order, American Horror Story: Hotel (FX), Scream Queens (Fox), Game of Thrones (HBO), The Walking Dead (AMC) and Modern Family (ABC). Each is a very popular shows that students likely aren’t able to watch live because of other commitments, but it’s still important ant for them to catch up and remain current.
Live programming, however, is the domain of sports — a type of programming that doesn’t hold up well when viewed days later. Other than Keeping Up With The Kardashians (E!), every other broadcast in the top 10 of the Xfinity on Campus report was a live sporting event or ESPN’s SportsCenter. Football ruled all, with the NFL and NCAA holding four of the top five spots.
There is a clear difference in preference on how certain types of content are viewed, which creates unique challenges for service providers and network infrastructure.
What Streaming TV Means for Millennials, Schools and Network Infrastructure
Today’s college students have high expectations when it comes to communications services. Younger millennials are the first generation to have grown up entirely in the Internet age, and when it comes to speeds and services, they expect the best. Anything less is downright unfamiliar to them.
This creates a challenge for colleges in that they not only have to provide a number of technology services that underpin their educational mission, but they are also responsible for providing infrastructure that can support home entertainment. The larger the university, the greater the challenge.
After class, students will be online studying, streaming video, listening to streaming audio, and using their smartphones — sometimes all at once. IPTV especially is becoming the preferred television viewing option among millennials and college students. That is a serious demand on networks, and one that students expect to be fulfilled. Additionally, these problems compound over time, so it’s critical that universities tackle them before it’s too late.
Jeremy Andreoli is executive director of video services at Comcast Cable.