Millennials may doom the TV business (or maybe not)

Cord cutting cannot be denied.

The overall traditional pay-television universe keeps getting smaller. The entire industry, which includes cable and satellite providers, dropped 795,000 subscribers in 2016, more than twice what it lost the previous year, according to data from Leichtman Research Group (LRG). Those numbers have heated up in 2017 with slightly more than 1 million homes cutting the cord with cable.

Those numbers are troubling on their own, but they seem worse when you look at recent data from Nielsen. In its most-recent Comparable Metrics Report, the research firm showed that people ages 18-34 -- the age group known as millennials -- simply watches less television than older generations. That suggests cord cutting could get worse as more digital-native generations grow up, but that's only one way to read the data.

19 things millennials are killing
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19 things millennials are killing

Casual dining chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's

Brands such as TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesday, and Applebee's have faced sales slumps and dozens of restaurant closures as casual-dining chains have struggled to attract customers and increase sales.

In August, Applebee's announced it would close up to 135 restaurants, in part because it focused too much on winning over millennials and forgot its "Middle America roots." 

"Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants, and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants," Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith wrote in a letter to shareholders earlier this year. 

REUTERS/Rick Wilking


In late July, Goldman Sachs downgraded both Boston Beer Company and Constellation Brands based on the data that younger consumers prefer wine and spirits to beer, as well as the fact that they're drinking less alcohol than older generations more generally.

Beer penetration fell 1% from 2016 to 2017 in the US market, while both wine and spirits were unmoved, according to Nielsen ratings. 

While some argue that calling a 1% drop in penetration a beer-industry homicide case is an overreaction, small shifts have a huge financial impact on beer industry giants. Beer already lost 10% of market share to wine and hard liquor from 2006 to 2016.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images


Younger consumers are opting for paper towels over napkins, according a Washington Post article from 2016. 

The Post points to a survey conducted by Mintel, which highlights that only 56% of shoppers said that they bought napkins in the past six months. However, 86% surveyed said they had purchased paper towels.

Paper towels are more functional than napkins, and can be used for more purposes. And, the Post noted that millennials are more likely to eat meals out of the home, contributing to the decline. 

(Thomas Winz via Getty Images)

"Breastaurant" chains like Hooters

People from the age of 18 to 24 are 19% less likely to search for breasts on pornographic website Pornhub compared to all other age groups, according to an analysis conducted by the website.

For "breastaurants" like Hooters and Twin Peaks, a loss of interest in breasts is bad for business. The number of Hooters locations in the US has dropped by more than 7% from 2012 to 2016, and sales have stagnated, according to industry reports.

Hooters has struggled to win over millennials for some time now. In 2012, the chain attempted to revamp its image with updated decor and new menu items to attract more millennial and female customers.

(ClaudineVM via Getty Images)


Almost 40% of millennials surveyed by Mintel said that cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they have to clean up after eating it, the New York Times reported in 2016.

Instead, younger consumers are turning to convenient options with minimal cleanup that can be eaten on the go, from yogurt to fast-food breakfast sandwiches.

Cereal sales dropped 5% from 2009 to 2014, despite the fact that more Americans are eating breakfast than ever before.

Companies such as Kellogg and General Mills have reported that sales have stopped falling in 2017, so cereal may not be dead just yet. 

(Jenniveve84 via Getty Images)


"From the golf industry statistics, we know that rounds are down," Matt Powell of industry-research firm NPD said in a video in 2016. "We know that millennials are not picking up the game, and boomers are aging out. The game is in decline." 

While millennials have created new fitness crazes, like SoulCycle and barre classes, golf has failed to capture their interest in the same manner. 


"Our data suggests the younger Gen Y population is adopting motorcycling at a far lower rate than prior generations," AB analyst David Beckel said in a July note downgrading its rating of Harley-Davidson shares from "outperform" to "market perform."

Motorcycle sales at Harley-Davidson, which represents about half of the US big-bike market, were down 1.6% overall in 2016 versus the year before. US sales fell 3.9%.

The company shipped 262,221 motorcycles overall, which fell short of expectations of 264,000-269,000 units.

REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer


Homeownership is hitting record lows among millennials. 

"We believe the delay in homeownership is due to tighter credit standard and lifestyle changes, including delayed marriage and children," wrote Michelle Meyer, a US economist at BAML, in a recent note.

"We do not expect these factors to change in the medium term, keeping the homeownership rate low for young adults."

Yogurt — especially light yogurt

Light yogurt sales fell 8.5% in the year ending in September 2016, dropping $200 million from roughly $1.2 billion to $1 billion, according to Nielsen data.

Wider yogurt industry sales declined 1.5%, the fourth consecutive year of falling sales.

The decline in light yogurt can be traced to a growing demand for natural, protein-rich foods that fill up health-conscious consumers, instead of simply low-calorie and low-fat options. That's been a huge help for Greek yogurt, which appeals to customers seeking a filling option packed with protein. 

On the flip side of the rise of protein and organic options is the fall of sugar.

Low fat-diets were the norm in the US in the '80s and '90s. As food makers worked to cut fat from products, they began replacing it with another ingredient: sugar. As a result, "light" yogurts were often packed with sugar, yet advertised as low-fat, healthy choices.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bars of soap

Bar soap sales fell 2.2% from 2014 to 2015, a time when the rest of the shower-and-bath category grew, according to Mintel.

And, millennials are to blame. 

"Almost half (48%) of all US consumers believe bar soaps are covered in germs after use, a feeling that is particularly strong among consumers aged 18-24 (60%), as opposed to just 31% of older consumers aged 65-plus," Mintel wrote in a press release. 



Fewer millennials are getting married and those that are are increasingly choosing nontraditional rings, CNBC reported. 

As sales of diamonds have slowed globally, trade associations such as Diamond Producers Association have attempted to win over millennial customers by retooling how the jewels are branded. 

(sswartz via Getty Images)

Fabric softener

Liquid fabric softener sales fell 15% in the US between 2007 and 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported. Market leader Downy fell 26% in the same period. 

According to Downy maker Procter & Gamble's head of global fabric care, millennials "don't even know what the product is for." 

(humonia via Getty Images)


Millennials distrust financial establishments and rarely visit physical banks. 

"There's a massive shift in consumer behavior and consumer trust," Rick Yang, a partner at venture-capital firm New Enterprise Associates, told Business Insider. "I think coming out of [the financial crisis], millennials have a massive distrust of existing financial services."

While banks themselves will probably never die, bank branches and physical bank locations may soon be a thing of the past.  

Nearly three-quarters of millennials with a bank account visit a branch once or less per month, according to BI Intelligence data. And, slightly less than 40% of millennials do not visit physical banks at all. 

(andresr via Getty Images)

Department stores like Macy's and Sears

As millennials flock to fast-fashion brands like H&M and Zara, Macy's and Sears have suffered. Sears is closing more than 300 Sears and Kmart stores this year, while Macy's plans to shutter 68.

Part of the reason is that when millennials do spend money, they're spending more on experiences like restaurants and traveling. Millennials are less drawn to aspirational, designer brands, and they're perfectly happy saving money by buying private label lines, which further hurts traditional department stores.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Designer handbags

Speaking of once popular brands, millennials are also hurting designer handbag sales.

Brands like Michael Kors and Kate Spade have been forced to sell handbags at major discounts as millennials lose interest (and lack the money to spend on the bags). In some ways, the brands' mega-popularity contributed to their downfall. 

Widespread popularity is the "kiss of death for trendy fashion brands, particularly those positioned in the up-market younger consumer sectors," industry expert Robin Lewis wrote on his blog. 

(Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)


While millennials like to workout, they're ditching gyms in favor of boutique, class-centric centers. 

"Millennials don't want to be tied down," Megan Smyth, the CEO of FitReserve, a service that lets members book boutique studio classes, told the New York Post. "It's a spontaneous demographic."

In July, Foursquare found that mid-market gyms like 24 Hour Fitness, Snap Fitness, and New York Sports Club lost 5% of their gym visit share in the last year, as boutique fitness visits have grown. 

Home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's

While people have been investing more in their homes, some experts have questioned whether millennials' reticence to buy homes could ultimately hurt these retailers. 

"Millennials are redefining the American family," Jeff Fromm wrote in Forbes. "Millennials are delaying marriage and childbirth at rates never seen before. This cultural shift will have a near-term impact on housing: millennials may not need the same space, permanence, and practicality that most Americans want out of their housing."

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)


Both college football games' attendance and NFL viewership have recently declined. 

Analysts said the drop could be tied to a number of things — the 2016 election, protests as NFL players have taken a knee during the national anthem, or that the game has simply gotten more boring.

However, one explanation would directly target millennials: younger people are ditching cable at an increasing rate, leaving them to watch games in groups or simply stay updated on their iPhones. 

(fredrocko via Getty Images)


Millennials' perception of the oil industry means that it may struggle to find workers — and customers — in the future. 

McKinsey found that 14% of millennials say they would not want to work in the oil and gas industry because of its negative image — a higher percentage than any industry. And, a recent survey by EY found that millennials "question the longevity of the industry ... Further, they primarily see the industry's careers as unstable, blue-collar, difficult, dangerous and harmful to society." 

Teens are even more critical, with two out of three saying that the oil and gas industry causes problems instead of solving them.  

(Vladimirovic via Getty Images)

What does the report say?

People ages 18-34 (millennials) only watch 19 hours and 18 minutes of TV each week. That's less than the nearly 31 hours watched by the 35-49 age group, and less than half the 46 hours and 32 minuted of TV watched each week by people ages 50 and over.

Millennials do spend more time each month using TV-connected devices (DVD, Game Console, Multimedia Device, VCR, etc.), but at about three hours more than 35-49-year-olds, and just over five hours more than those aged 50 or older, it does not eliminate the overall deficit. In addition, while 18-34-year-olds use their smartphones about five hours more each week than people over 50, they actually use them a little more than an hour less than 35-49-year-olds.

Basically, when you look across TV, radio, TV-connected devices, PC, smartphone, and tablet usage, millennials actually have the lowest total use of the three age groups. The 18-34-year-old group spends 64 hours and one minute each week on their devices while 35-49-year-olds clock in at 82 hours and 43 minutes and the over-50 set spends 82 hours and 54 minutes.

What does this mean?

This research proves that millennials may not fit some of the stereotypes associated with them. The fact that they actually use their phones less than 35-49-year-olds is surprising, as is their overall lower use of all devices compared to all age groups.

The data does suggest that millennials have less interest in traditional television than other age groups, which suggests cord cutting will increase as more 18-34-year-olds start living on their own. That's possible, but it's worth noting that this trend isn't new. Going back to Nielsen data from Q4 2008, 18-24-year-olds and 25-34-year-olds (as it was broken down in the report) watched less TV than older age groups. In fact, from ages 18-24 through each group tracked, TV consumption increased as people got older.

Is TV doomed?

Viewing patterns are changing and millennials appear to be more willing than other age groups to consume entertainment on TV-connected devices rather than through cable or satellite connections. That seems likely to continue since streaming services cost less than traditional pay-TV packages. That probably means cord cutting continues its steady growth, but it's a shift in how TV gets consumers not the death of television.

Content providers and cable companies would be smart to continue to develop alternative delivery methods to serve millennial needs. But, as that age group gets older, its members are likely to see their overall TV and TV-equivalent content consumption increase. Cable and satellite services may not be dying, but they're going to shrink as a delivery method. Watching television-style content and consuming screen-based entertainment, however, seems as healthy as it has ever been.

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