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Gen Z Seeks All-Day Entertainment from Mobile Devices, Study Says

This article was featured in Mobile Marketer.

Written by Robert Williams, published August 14, 2019


  • Gen Z is not only growing to be the biggest generational group in the U.S., but it also spends the most time throughout the day watching mobile video, according to a new study that entertainment company Whistle shared with Mobile Marketer. Roughly four out of five (81%) surveyed Gen Zers said putting on a mobile video while doing other things keeps them entertained.
  • Gen Zers are like millennials in concentrating about 60% of their viewing time in the evenings, but the younger group watches more video in the early morning as well, while commuting and during breaks. This spreads their consumption on mobile devices more evenly throughout the day. Four out of five Gen Zers also described watching a short video as a “good way to fill gaps in my day,” according to Whistle.
  • More than half (61%) of Gen Zers said watching video content on a phone is as good as watching TV, compared with only 37% of millennials who saw no difference in quality between the platforms. Just 39% of Gen Zers said they always prefer to watch videos on TV, compared to 63% of millennials.


Whistle’s study indicates that Gen Z relies heavily on smartphones to support a constant need for entertainment, perhaps to a degree that’s uncommon even among similarly mobile-minded age groups like millennials. That all-day consumption provides opportunities for marketers and video publishers to connect with Gen Zers throughout a wider selection of dayparts that were much more limited before the smartphone era.

For example, 40% of Gen Zers surveyed by Whistle reported that a mobile device was their primary viewing platform for Netflix, compared with 22% of millennials. Among Gen Zers who watch videos on Facebook, 83% said they used a mobile device as the primary viewing platform. As for Gen Z viewers of YouTube, 74% said they mostly depended on a mobile device to watch content on the Google-owned video-sharing platform.

As platforms like Facebook and Google’s YouTube — along with newer entrants favored by Gen Z like TikTok — continue to command more brand dollars, marketers should be designing youth-targeted efforts for smaller screens. But serving effective and engaging video ads on mobile remains a pain point for many, particularly when it comes to in-app video delivery, as a recent study by Penthera revealed.

While Whistle’s study focused on Gen Z and millennials, it supports other research around mobile usage habits. Eighty-eight percent of mobile consumers unlock their phones while they’re waiting to do something else, creating an opportunity to grab their attention with snackable content, per a survey by Phoenix Marketing and mobile ad firm Mobile Posse. Consumers are more likely to unlock their smartphones without having a specific app in mind, creating “appnostic” opportunities for app publishers, content providers and marketers to connect with people looking to browse a mobile platform.

U.S. adults this year will spend more time using their mobile devices than they’ll spend watching TV, according to eMarketer forecasts. The researcher estimated that the average time spent on mobile devices will grow 3.7% this year to 3 hours and 43 minutes a day, surpassing the 3 hours and 35 minutes spent watching TV. American adults spend about 40% of their daily digital video viewing time on mobile devices, reaching about 40 minutes a day, eMarketer said.

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