I have a young friend, Freddy, my lawyer’s son. He’s a rising star at a TV network with the challenging assignment — to corral the millenials; i.e., the kids born after 1990. While I don’t profess to know much about this market segment – heck, most of my suits are older than them – I’ve always been fascinated by changing demographics.
So I was astounded the other day when he told me he wouldn’t hire anyone who still watched cable TV. Much less networks.
“You mean, like streaming stuff,” I said, trying to sound hip. Streaming is the downloading of TV programs to watch when you want.
“That’s right, uncle Bill. Heck, most of the audience we’re after barely has time to breathe. They work crazy hours, maybe two jobs, then party ‘til they drop and when they come home, all they want to do is crash. And just maybe, stream one or two of their favorite programs late at night or over the weekend.”
“No 50 inch Samsung TV, I guess,” I said jokingly.
“Bill, the closest they get to a TV set is a 15” laptop.
“They almost all live dormitory style, two or three to a room. A bed is a luxury, a sleeping bag is the norm. When they watch their shows, it’s with ear buds so they won’t disturb the body sleeping next to them.”
“You mean, they don’t have they’re own apartments.”
“Bill, what planet are you living on? It’s a jungle out there.
“Kids today can barely find jobs when they graduate. They’re lucky to find internships. Theirs is a world of student loans, minimum wage jobs and handout from their parents.
“It’s bikes and public transit. The clothes they’re wearing are their clothes from college, and if their computer crashes it’s like the end of the world.”
“So what kind of programming works for these kids,” I asked.
“That’s the challenge. First, we tried straight blocks of network shows, but that bombed. Now, because we’re literally a factory, we’ll sell a sitcom to the network or cable just to cover the bases. But that’s so yesterday.
“All our emphasis is on streaming. Start with the premise that our demographic has the attention span of a gnat. So we go with cartoons, short bits, action programs, bam bam bam, some of it pretty risqué too, because that’s what works at 3 AM when the kids are wired, stoned or had a few brews.”
“So what kind of talent are you hiring,” I asked.
“Techies and seriously sick but funny high school nerds who have come up with great programming ideas. 100 of us trying to reach 25 million kids.”
“You’re pretty selective in your hires?”
“Yeah, the first question I asked every prospect is: ‘Do you watch cable?’ If they do, they’re history. So, obviously, we have a very young staff.”
“I guess you feel that programming for the nuclear family is pretty much over,” I said.
“It mostly is, Uncle Bill. Netflix changed everything for adults and we’re after the millennials.”
“One last question, how do you sell ads when your market is so illusive?”
“Ads!,” Freddy exclaimed. “Do you think Mark Zuckerberg cared about ads when he started Facebook?”
Bill Regardie was the founder of Regardie’s Magazine