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Smells Like Teen Spirit: How Teens are Using Entertainment

4 minute read | September 2013

With back to school season now upon us, we turn our focus to the teen consumer—an increasingly influential group with diverse entertainment interests—and how technology plays a central role in their interests.


The face of gaming isn’t what it used to be. In the U.S., the industry has captured a slightly more female, youth-oriented audience over time, and more and more younger kids are gaming these days. In 2012, gamers under the age of 18 comprised 35 percent of the total U.S. gaming audience, up from 30 percent in 2011. The 6-12 age group saw the biggest growth in that period—from 13 percent to 17 percent. This “next generation” of gamers is growing, and gamers under age 13 actually now account for 24 percent of the U.S. gaming population, highlighting a key group for game makers to watch in the next few years.

When it comes to tech, teens are arguably one of the biggest groups of early adopters, and they love portability. In our annual survey of 2,500 general population consumers (including game console users) published in March 2013, about half of teens who live in a household with an iPhone, Android phone or non-iPad tablet report playing games on the respective device, while approximately 60 percent of those with access to an iPad or iPod Touch use them for gaming. In addition, in a separate music study via 3,000 consumer online surveys, we found that online gaming ranked high in penetration among teens—approximately 34 percent have used online gaming services/stores in the last 12 months, which presents an interesting opportunity for the industry to expand its offerings and distribution to reach this growing and tech-savvy audience.

In the annual survey of consumers including game console users mentioned previously, we found that teens are big users of current-gen consoles. In 2012, 76 percent of teens aged 13-17 who report living in an Xbox 360 owning household play on the console. For the PlayStation 3, 61 percent of teens in the same age group who report living in a household owning the console play with it. It will be interesting to see how teens adopt the new Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One 8th gen gaming consoles once those systems arrive in November.


Shifting gears to music, the teen group is the segment that listens most often and spends the most time listening to music (approximately 5.8 hours per week). Teens’ consumption of music has changed as well in recent years—they have the most music apps on their smartphones—approximately seven on their primary smartphone—more than any other age group. This dedicated listenership gives the music industry a tuneful way to expand its strategic distribution and programming, ultimately creating fan loyalty to brands at an early age.


As we learned earlier this year, movie-book-music franchises are hugely popular among teens. Three of the top 10 bestselling print book titles in 2012 were from the young adult “Hunger Games” book series, and the DVD title for the first Hunger Games movie was the third-bestselling disc (Blu-ray and DVD) of 2012. The books within this branded series continue to sell strongly, having sold over 650,000 units this year to date. We also expect the trend to continue as the hype ramps up for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the second film in the series that hits theaters Nov. 22, 2013.

This year, these young adult book-to-film franchises continue to appeal to teens, as Cassandra Clare’s “The Mortal Instruments” series saw the first installment, “City of Bones,” debuted in theaters on Aug. 21, 2013. The action-adventure-fantasy title has sold 900,000 print books in all formats since it was first published on March 1, 2008, and will likely gain momentum as excitement over the film spreads. First-week sales of the soundtrack were over 10,000 units, and the release features artists like Demi Lovato, AFI, Colbie Caillat, and Jessie J. Given the groundswell behind the book and movie, the exposure on the soundtrack for these artists will likely be career-benefiting. The film debut for the young-adult “Divergent” trilogy authored by Veronica Roth (of which the first book of the same title has sold over half a million copies release to date) is also coming soon, and is currently being filmed by Summit Entertainment.

Teens have more opportunity and more methods today to consume entertainment than their parents, and the way they engage and shape the industry is increasingly important as they grow older and build up their buying power. And it’s not just content providers that should have all the fun—because teens are willing and open to extending their entertainment experiences across all of their favorite brands.

Sources: Nielsen U.S. Gaming: A 360° View 2012, Nielsen Music 360 Report 2012, Nielsen’s State of the Media: The Entertainment Consumer Report; Nielsen SoundScan, Nielsen BookScan.

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