UGC Trends: Making TV for Gen Z


2020 signalled a seismic shift in consumer entertainment habits.  Stuck at home during the pandemic, we became more reliant than ever on our devices for entertainment, information and social connection - an acceleration of pre-pandemic trends.

But for broadcasters and cable networks, the disruption is only just beginning.  The next wave of disruption may lie with Generation Z—who prefer to play video games, stream music, and engage on social media, often simultaneously, rather than watch TV or movies.

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It’s time to get ahead of these preferences.  It’s time to evolve and take a more diversified and innovative approach to production.  It’s time to capture Gen Z’s attention and meet them where they live.    

They are no longer living in the shadow of their older millennial peers. They’ve found their place in the world and have high expectations – they want to always be experiencing.  This fact, more than any other, is shaping their viewing preferences.

Gen Z want to be immersed in programming, to learn something from it, and desire a deeper level of connection with the people making it.

To capture Gen Z, producers need to get more savvy with UGC.

Capturing the Gen Z Experience

Gen Z are just not programmed to watch TV like X, Y or even Millennials.  They’ve grown up with social media, instant messaging, video games, and live-streaming influencers, and they are the first generation to have grown up with on-demand television content available for their entire lives. 

They also have micro attention spans, just 8 seconds apparently - that’s 4 seconds less than millennials. They are in a constant state of distraction and discovery, doing multiple things at the same time – you know that perpetual scroll thing… They’re simultaneously watching TV, messaging friends, and scrolling through Snap or TikTok.  

The Gen Z experience is highly influential.  Gen Z is having a big influence on the generations preceding them – the viewing and content consumption behaviours of Millennials and Generation Y – as well as the generations that follow them, of course.  

Now is the time for producers, broadcast and cable networks to get prepared for a future of TV shaped by Gen Z.  To truly understand their linear entertainment habits, and design new film and TV experiences to attract them.  

What do Gen Z want to watch?

Gen Z love Facebook Watch, Instagram Reels and YouTube (including YouTube Shorts), and they love to scroll through TikTok and Snap.

Gen Z is always in discovery mode.  They want to watch people like them, they want to be inspired, informed, and connected.  They turn to creators of a different kind for both entertainment and information.  

They want real-time content that grapples with the big issues facing the world and society, as this is absolutely core to their identity.  80% of Gen Z say YouTube has helped them become more knowledgeable about an issue of interest to them. Gen Z is attracted to diverse, multifaceted, and relevant storytelling, and they invest their time in emotionally complex or soothing content.  Content the captures the Gen Z experience in a unique way.

For these reasons Gen Z are increasingly disengaging from traditional TV.  In fact, 50% of Gen Z now rank social media as the number one way they prefer to get news, with only 12% saying they get their daily dose of information about the world around them from network or cable TV. 

The message is clear - Gen Z respond to User-Generated Content.

How to make more of the TV Gen Z want with UGC

Gen Z love short form.  Whether it’s because of their busy lifestyles, shorter attention span or the dizzying range of content options on offer.  When it comes to TV, short form means 20-25 minutes is optimum.  But much more importantly, regardless of length, content cannot be passive - as I said, they want to be always experiencing.

This is actually great news for producers, as they already have the skillset to build the stories Gen Z want to see.  The big difference is that the building blocks for story-making have evolved.

The building blocks of Gen Z TV are UGC.  UGC offers a continuous supply of fresh content – vast archives, thousands of new videos every day, and crowdsourced content – with the opportunity to get more of the shows Gen Z want into production quickly.  Viral clips of course, you know the stuff, but also animals and nature, sport, science, weather, travel, news and events.  Stories that are immediately applicable to the Gen Z experience.

Unscripted productions, reality shows, and factual documentaries do well with Gen Z because they are genuine and authentic, and grapple with big stuff. Gen Z audiences are seeking engaging unscripted content which intrigues and piques their interest across a multitude of subjects, and UGC delivers on all fronts.

Newsflare makes Gen Z programming easy. We specialise in sourcing and verifying videos of every genre and format to production companies around the world. You can search and license from 215,000 videos filmed by our diverse community; we'll help you find the content your production needs or crowdsource content by putting our 45,000 creators to work on bespoke footage for your production.

Take a look at our practical guide for producers looking to get started UGC.

Or get in touch with a member of our production team to find out how we can help you build get started with UGC.

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Morgan Schofield
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Morgan Schofield