How streaming TV creates connections, inspires nostalgia and remains a family ritual

Dana McGraw, senior vice president of data and measurement science, Disney Advertising

In an era of streaming, there is no one size fits all. Some people stream content with family to watch the Iowa and South Carolina showdown during the NCAA Women’s Championship Game. Others might binge-watch Season 2 of FX’s ‘The Bear’ alone on a weeknight or meet up with friends to watch ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’ for the final rose ceremony. 

How people watch content changes when streaming solo versus as a family or within another community dynamic. While in transit to work, someone might prefer short, snackable episodes but enjoy long-form, lean-back cinematic content on weekends. 

Traditional appointment viewing has transformed into convenient always-on viewing on viewers’ preferred screens and platforms. 

As streaming’s impact continues to be profoundly felt, Disney Advertising sought to explore the intersection of streaming and families through a study titled Generation Stream: Family Edition. By partnering with boutique research agency Culture Co-Op, Disney Advertising utilized qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore modern family life, new family connections, the impact of streaming on family entertainment and what this means for advertisers. 

Sharing shows and movies is a cherished family activity

In a world with endless entertainment options, watching various shows and films remains a tested and true family tradition, offering impactful stories that foster fandom while allowing families to bond, kick back and relax. 

In the context of the research study conducted by Disney Advertising and Culture Co-Op, families were defined as households that included partners (married and unmarried), parents living with children (biological or non-biological) and children living with parents or guardians — excluding those comprised of one person or non-related roommates. 

Streaming has broadened this horizon for audiences and advertisers, creating an ideal setting for brands to engage in this shared experience. The most important branch of family life is downtime, which includes relaxing and TV time

Viewers now have access to deeper libraries of content than ever before. For instance, all 20 seasons of ABC’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ draw impressive viewership on Hulu, capturing new and seasoned audiences alike. This mix of discoverability and nostalgia connects viewers with the classics and engages them in water cooler conversations via social media and other platforms. 

In the modern fragmented landscape, aligning with content that has lasting appeal is even more critical for advertisers aiming to connect with families. For example, 76% of families are interested in nostalgic TV shows and movies, providing advertisers ample opportunities to connect with families. 

Streaming TV can foster cultural connections that surpass location and generations

Walt Disney introduced the term edutainment in 1954: “a new kind of entertainment that goes far beyond simply amusing its audience. It [tackles] subjects that directly affect every [person] in America.” 

Now, streaming connects audiences to new places, cultures and experiences. 

In 2024, educational content, cultural stories and documentaries will be the top content types that 72% of families like to stream. This means that advertisers and marketers can integrate their brands with content highlighting current topics, diverse cultures and next-gen narratives to serve this audience best. 

As the concept of family has become more about fostering community and deepening human connection, especially in an age marked by generational and geographical differences, streaming serves as a bridge — catalyzing conversations and new friendships through shared stories. 

Seventy-seven percent of families say they have created better connections with their parents or children by watching and bonding over content from their generation. Advertisers can further this family bonding experience beyond the living room by turning streams into shared memories and building upon the content this audience engages with. 

Streaming variety demands compromise — but families are making discoveries

In addition to endless content options, each household member has different tastes, moods and levels of patience. This variety means more decision-making on what to watch. 

For instance, Casey, a participant in Disney Advertising’s study, shared that some of her family members love horror while others love animation. She said, “It’s amazing what we have discovered because of us all trying to meet in the middle.” 

According to families, the number one benefit of streaming is more choice. Advertisers can more effectively connect with viewers by tailoring brand messaging that speaks to the decision-making process

One of the many challenges marketers face is understanding how and in what context audiences consume content. Insights help marketers tap into the audiences they instinctively know they want to reach, but data helps them reach the unexpected. 

For example, a tune-in advertiser looking to reach new audiences for the premier of a program that typically skews higher with male viewers determined that their target audience had over-indexed on the consumption of women’s college basketball. Insights like this inform the creation of specific audience segments inspired by Generation Stream and powered by first-party data solutions. Looking ahead, Disney Advertising plans to expand its body of work with Generation Stream: Global Edition, exploring the streaming landscape from a global perspective.

Whether tapping into nostalgia, tuning into content to learn or watching content that sparks meaningful discussions, streaming is a central connection point for modern families, and advertisers have numerous opportunities to capitalize on these significant moments.   

Sponsored by Disney Advertising

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