Entertainment

Gen Z Wants Shorter TV Episodes and Movies

Americans between the ages of 13 and 25 greatly prefer shorter forms of entertainment compared with the general population, Morning Consult surveys find

Only 16% of Gen Zers said they want TV episodes to last an hour, compared with 42% of all U.S. adults, according to Morning Consult data. (Netflix, Unsplash / Morning Consult artwork by Chloe Phan)

Gen Zers are no longer a mere fascination: They now wield serious purchasing power and cultural capital as they put their imprints on the global economy. Morning Consult surveyed Americans between the ages of 13 and 25 about their media tastes and habits, relationships with brands and interest in sports in order to better understand where, exactly, the youngest adult generation is now taking us.

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“Prestige TV” ushered in the age of the lengthy TV show, with individual episodes often exceeding an hour. Blockbuster Hollywood movies have evolved similarly: “Avatar: The Way of Water,” for instance, clocks in at more than three hours.

But in order to hook younger audiences who grew up on secondslong TikTok videos and ephemeral Instagram Stories, mainstream entertainment might have to get quicker.

Gen Z consumers’ ideal TV and movie lengths are shorter than those of the general population, according to Morning Consult data. Only a quarter of Gen Zers said the ideal TV episode is an hour or longer, compared with more than half of all U.S. adults (52%) who said the same. Meanwhile, roughly 2 in 5 Gen Zers (41%) said the ideal movie length is an hour and 30 minutes or less, compared with 32% of the general population who agreed.

Streaming services like Netflix Inc. have already experimented with releasing episodes with shorter, less predictable runtimes. But, based on the data, that might not be enough.

Gen Zers to Hollywood: Make Your Content Shorter

Respondents were asked for their ideal length of a TV episode and a movie

Survey conducted Nov. 2-8, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,000 Gen Z adults between the ages of 13 and 25, with an unweighted margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points. A separate survey was conducted Nov. 2-4, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Gen Zers want TV episodes to be 45 minutes or less

  • More than a third of Gen Zers said the ideal TV episode is either 30 minutes (34%) or 45 minutes (35%), compared with a quarter and 21%, respectively, of all U.S. adults who said the same.
  • Only 16% of Gen Zers said they want episodes to be an hour, compared with 42% of all U.S. adults, suggesting that young audiences are less interested in prestigious TV with longer runtimes. Nearly three times as many adults said hourlong episodes are the ideal length (42%) as the share of Gen Zers who said the same (16%).
  • While Gen Zers aligned with the general population on movies that run two hours and 30 minutes or longer, they preferred two-hour movies 9 percentage points less than their older counterparts, and movies that are shorter than two hours 9 points more.

Hurry up, Hollywood 

Gen Zers are used to consuming content quickly and moving onto the next thing. Quibi, the failed short-form entertainment app, may have been onto something in terms of understanding how younger audiences watch content, but the execution was severely lacking, forcing the app to shut down in just a few months. 

Among the many reasons Quibi failed was that its content fell in the undesirable gray area between true bite-sized content like TikTok videos and more substantial, worthwhile entertainment, like a traditional TV show. Gen Z might want shorter content, but there was no audience for the product Quibi created.

The way to reach more Gen Z consumers, streaming platforms have realized, is probably not in trying to reinvent the wheel, but rather in simply making their content a bit quicker and more manageable in a landscape saturated with content options. Episodes of HBO Max shows like “Never Have I Ever” and “The Sex Lives of College Girls” come in at half an hour or less. Episodes of FX on Hulu’s thriller series “The Patient” range from 20 to 45 minutes, ensuring that even the longer installments don’t push the issue with its younger viewers.

Meanwhile, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” — which a third of Gen Zers said they’ve seen, according to Morning Consult data — clocks in at a crisp 87 minutes. Right in the sweet spot for its fans.

The Nov. 2-8, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. Gen Zers between the ages of 13 and 25, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. A separate Nov. 2-4, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.