Netflix has very little room to grow its user base among younger audiences in its home market. Ampere Analysis estimates that 80 percent of 18-35 year olds in the US and the UK already have access to the world’s biggest streaming service.
As a result, Netflix has looked abroad for continued growth. But there are still relatively untapped markets at home which the company could be targeting. Some have suggested that the answer to Netflix’s slowing growth rates are the over-55 age groups, the so-called “silver streamers”.
Over the course of the pandemic, digital adoption by this age group accelerated, but figures from Ampere Analysis suggest that only half of internet-connected 55-64 year olds are subscribed to Netflix.
The TV behaviour of older people has ramifications far beyond the growth of Netflix’s subscribers. Tim Mulligan, research director of MIDiA Research, says that engaging older audiences is crucial to “for streaming to realise its potential to become the future of TV”. And they could present a valuable opportunity for AVOD services, with silver streamers not yet won over by ad-free paid subscriptions.
How to engage the “silver streamer”
Like any other demographic, over-55s will vary in what they want from their streaming TV services. However, one way streaming services can work to engage older users is through fairly representing the age group in their content.
The Centre for Ageing Better is a UK charity that works to ensure people enjoy later life. They stress the importance of avoiding stereotypes in how older people are portrayed in media, including in TV content.
“Ageing is often associated with decline and ill-health, and older people are commonly portrayed as frail, vulnerable and dependent,” says the charity.
For streaming services looking to engage older audiences, accurate representation in their content is a good place to start.
Accessibility of CTV services can also be a factor in terms of engaging older people with streaming TV. Research from organisations such as the Centre for Ageing Better finds that ease of use and installation is highly important to many older consumers.
Tim Mulligan says the rise of smart TVs rather than separate CTV devices may be crucial in engaging older consumers with streaming TV.
“Silver streamers are most familiar with the traditional TV experience, meaning a TV set,” he said. “Smart TV is something of a Trojan horse, which enables DTC and non-video apps to be able to have a place at the centre of the consumer hub. Because it’s a TV, but it has all these digital capabilities. So, to really engage with other streamers going forwards, DTC has to understand what that landscape is and understand how to partner with it.”
When it comes to navigating through content, Mulligan says that silver streamers often replicate how they watch TV on linear using streaming services. He says MIDiA’s research finds that older viewers often engage in binge watching behaviour. However, this kind of binge watching is different from how younger viewers might engage.
“We have a working hypothesis that what can actually be going on is that they’re replicating lean-back linear TV behaviour, where the TV is a background to the rest of activity that takes place during the day,” Mulligan said, “So basically, how daytime TV or morning TV is utilized in a lot of all the households, because the autoplay function on streaming services facilitates this. What they’re doing could be described as binge watching multiple episodes, but they’re not actually binge viewing, they have just got it on in the background.”
A silver opportunity for AVOD
For SVOD services like Netflix looking to expand their subscriber base, older viewers could be very valuable. They have more disposable income, more leisure time, and research from MIDiA suggests, are likely to be loyal customers once they sign up to a service.
However, it’s not just subscription-based services that can be given a boost by older consumers.
Tim Mulligan says that older streamers could be crucial for driving adoption of AVOD services in markets where they’ve yet to go mainstream.
“Silver streamers can be the catalyst for AVOD services going mainstream. The reasoning being that this age group are familiar and tolerant of ad interruptions on TV, as it’s something they expect on pay TV,” Mulligan said.
That’s not to say that AVOD services should simply recreate the traditional TV ad experience for older viewers. Across all demographics, consumers are more likely to be accepting of ads if they are relevant and high-quality, says Mulligan.
“If AVOD services want to go mainstream, they have to engage silver streamers, and they have to do it now, before this group becomes overly familiar with ad-free offerings,” he added.