African-American Millennials vs. African-American Gen X: Streaming Habits

  • Leah Zitter
  • September 3, 2019

When it comes to streaming, our research finds that while it’s African-American millennials who are driving the market, Gen Xers are not that far behind. The main differentiators are in the different shows each generation watches and in that Millennials pay almost twice as much for streamed music content as do Gen Xers.

African-American Millennials: Streaming Habits

Reports like The Marketer’s Guide to African-American Millennials by Viant, an advertising technology company, indicate African-American millennials (ages 22–37) prefer to engage with celebrities who share their ethnic background, as well as watch shows that speak directly to them. Our Streamalytics research discovered that African-American millennials over-index shows on existentialist themes, technology, and social justice, as well as content on self-determination.

Examples include:

  • Shows on redefining success (e.g., Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Turn up Charlie, where characters wrestle constraining forces to form their own destinies)
  • Shows that revolve around social issues like environmentalism and overpopulation  (e.g., The Umbrella Academy)
  • Shows dealing with timely societal issues (e.g., On my Block)
  • Content representing the threats and uncertainties of a world shaped by emerging technology (e.g., YOU). 

These findings support the assertion by author Reniqua Allen that modern African-American millennials turn to media to forge their own identity. There’s also the possibility that these shows guide African-American millennials during unsettling times. 

We also found that compared with millennials in general and with older African-Americans in par ticular, most African-American millennials prefer shows that shift around ideas of spiritualism, including fantasy and science fiction. Examples of such shows include:

Each of these top TV series has some fantastical or mystical theme.  Each portrays a modern troubled life that collides with a fairy tale future, of trapped individuals who reclaim a world against vampires and villains, and where, as with Wakfu, heroes discover their own powers and use them to redeem a distressed society. In writer Rebecca Coleman’s research for LS:N Global, she suggests millennials obsess on themes of magic and mysticism during transitional and unsettling periods in their lives.

African-American Gen Xers: Streaming Habits

Most African-American Gen Xers (ages 38–53) prefer regular TV to streamed TV shows and movies. In common with the Brookings Institute Marking Guide, we found that African-American Gen Xers like more conventional shows in contrast to their younger counterparts.

Examples include standard shows like:

On the whole, however, most reports – take the 12th edition of Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends Survey for instance – find that the older generation tends to mimic the younger one. For example, in 2017, 70% of Gen Z households had a streaming subscription, closely followed by millennials (68%) and Gen X (64%) households. Similarly, half of Gen X respondents reported that they play video games frequently, almost matching Gen Z and millennial respondents.

Last year, digital-marketing research journal the eMarkerter found that Gen Xers decreased their TV viewing habits from 60.2 million in 2017 to 57.8 million in 2019. It also estimated that more than three-quarters of the Gen X population had begun to watch digital video at least once a month and predicted that figure would grow. 

When it comes to preferred streaming services, we found that both Gen Xers and millennials rated Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu their top three favorite video content providers. Our results resembled those reported by a survey on the general US population by MullenLowe MediaHub earlier this year.  

 On the other hand, and in common with other reports, we found a polarizing  generational difference in music, where millennials stream far more music content than do Gen Xers, using (in the case of African-American millennials) Apple Music as their preferred service. 

When it comes to music, both Gen X and millennials share similar tastes, according to Deloitte’s 2018 Insights. Both like the modern classics of Pop Contemporary Hits in contrast to Baby Boomers who “go for” the Adult Contemporary/Soft Adult Contemporary genre.  


In the marketing field, it’s no secret that millennials drive the subscription video on demand (SVOD) distribution market.

African-American millennials, who make up 26% of the total African-American population and 14% of all Millennials, spend about 12 and a half more hours per week than total Millennials on video and TV streaming services. In fact, marketing research firm Viant concludes that African-American Millennials “lead the way … in the use of audio streaming services.”

Additionally, African-American millennials have a spending power of $1.3 trillion that is predicted to increase to $1.54 trillion by 2022. Much of this spending money is used for digital technology.

So while Gen Xers do stream, it’s Millennials who are your future and you’ll want your marketing campaigns to speak directly to them.

For more information about Streamlytics or to schedule a demo, contact us here. 

About Leah Zitter

Dr. Leah Zitter has a Ph.D. in Psychology Research with a focus on Behavioral Neuroscience and over a decade of experience as an analyst, covering emerging technology, innovation, and media. She trained as an investigative journalist at the Center for Near East Policy Research, is a researcher at heart and enjoys exploring technology’s impact on culture and society.