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Millennials get their favorite TV and the debates too

People watch democratic presidential hopefuls U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) debate on screen at a Manhattan bar on January 31, 2008 in in New York City.

On Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET, most of the major broadcast and cable networks will preempt primetime entertainment for politics. ABC, CBS, FOX, MSNBC and others will air the first presidential debate between Democrat Barak Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.

But not the CW Network. Its audience of eighteen-to-twentysomething Millennials will get their standard dramatic fare. Instead of presidential talking heads battling it out, CW will show the season premier of ‘Supernatural,’ featuring a different epic battle: between humans and monsters from Hell.

But media analyst Jack Myers, who’s just published a book about Millennials (“Hooked Up—A New Generation's Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World”), says that just because they won’t likely sit in front of a big screen tuned to network TV on debate night and watch politicians argue for ninety minutes, doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention.

“The college-age audience is probably going to be more knowledgeable than they would be if they had watched,” says Meyers. “They’ll see the highlights of the debate from Twitter, YouTube, Facebook updates.”

Paul Conway runs Generation Opportunity—a conservative group aiming to grab the youth vote via social media like Twitter and Facebook.

“They’ll watch it when they want, or when their friends share it with them,” says Conway. “If those who are 18-to-29 have an average of 300 to 600 people on their Facebook pages, you can imagine how big a potential echo chamber you have.”

It’s an audience that won’t consume the debate in one real-time, undigestible viewing, but rather in the form of remixed and mashed-up debate clips shared—and commented on—by friends and celebrities they follow. And much of the post-debate content flying back and forth through the cyber-sphere is likely to focus on the issues that matter most to the Millennial generation—like student loans, gay marriage and jobs for young people.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.
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