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streaming burnout
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Television

Streaming Burnout: Why Millennials and Gen Z are Tuning Back into Traditional TV

NOTE: This article is 1 month old and may not include the most recent information.

We’ve long associated Millennials and Gen Z with the cord-cutting revolution – the exodus from traditional cable in favor of on-demand streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and the seemingly endless parade of others. But something interesting is happening. Many within these generations are finding themselves drifting back toward the scheduled programming of traditional television. Why the change of heart?

The answer, it seems, lies in streaming burnout.

The Age of Infinite Choice (and Infinite Paralysis)

Let’s be honest, the initial allure of streaming was intoxicating. Endless libraries of movies and TV shows, all available on demand, without commercials? It felt like a golden age of entertainment. But over time, the downsides have become apparent.

The sheer volume of choice can be paralyzing. Scrolling for what feels like hours, trying to settle on something to watch, has become a familiar, frustrating experience. We call it the “Netflix Paradox”: too many options leading to decision fatigue and, ultimately, watching nothing at all.

The Algorithm Isn’t Always Your Friend

While algorithms work to personalize your recommendations, they can also create a stifling bubble. You’re constantly fed variations on what you’ve already watched, limiting your exposure to the undiscovered gems or shows that challenge your usual taste. We miss the serendipity of flipping channels and stumbling upon an unexpected delight.

Cost Creep: The Subscription Overload

Remember when your cable bill felt outrageous? Streaming was supposed to be the cheaper alternative. However, subscribing to multiple platforms to access all your “must-watch” shows can quickly add up. This creeping cost can lead to a sense of financial strain, especially for younger generations already contending with rising living expenses.

So, Why The Traditional TV Revival?

  • Simplicity: Sometimes you just want to turn on the TV and have something to watch now. With traditional TV, there’s no decision-making required.
  • Background Comfort: There’s something familiar and comforting about having a show on in the background, even if you’re not actively paying attention. This low-effort entertainment scratches a different itch than intensely focusing on a streaming series.
  • Community: For popular shows, traditional TV offers watercooler moments and a sense of shared cultural experience that’s harder to replicate with everyone watching on their own schedules.
  • Breaking the Binge Cycle: Streaming services often drop entire seasons at once, encouraging unhealthy binge-watching. Traditional TV’s scheduled release model provides a natural pacing that can be much healthier.
  • The Nostalgia Factor and Niche Networks: Networks like MeTV (with its classic shows like “The Brady Bunch” and “MAS*H”), Antenna TV (focused on vintage sitcom reruns), and Decades (organizing content by decade) are finding new audiences with Millennials and Gen Z. They offer familiar comfort and a sense of retro discovery. Genre-specific networks like Buzzr (game shows), Comet (sci-fi), and GetTV (Westerns) are also finding new fans. These channels provide predictable, easy-to-watch content and often come at a lower cost than streaming subscriptions.
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The Takeaway

This isn’t to say that streaming services are going away. However, the resurgence of interest in traditional TV underscores that even the most tech-savvy generations crave simplicity and a change of pace. It’s a reminder that sometimes, instead of endless choice, we just want to lean back and let the programming find us.

Trevor Decker
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