Gen Z TV: How Can TV Shows Reach Younger Audiences?

Gen Z TV is as much about the community you create as they are about the shows themselves. Here’s how to keep this younger generation watching and engaged.
Fanbytes | Gen Z TV

In 30 seconds:

  • Gen Z TV habits have been a source of intense discussion ever since streaming services popularised the idea of ‘binge watching’ something you enjoy.
  • But what TV does Gen Z enjoy consuming? From high drama to workplace comedy, there’s a lot that grabs their interests.
  • So, how can you make sure your TV show ranks among the other blockbusters? We’re taking a deep dive.

Does Gen Z watch TV? 

It’s a fair question. After all, with the rise of huge streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus, ‘Gen Z TV’ started to look a lot more like a website and computer screen than the Saturday night sofa-and-television scene you might traditionally think about. 

Add to that the now-famous fact that Gen Zers have an attention span of only 8 seconds, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that expecting them to sit through an hour-long episode is a little ambitious. 

Except, of course, that the 8-second fact is a bit of a misnomer. In reality, the truth (according to a new Gen Z survey from Google, no less) is more like this: you have 8 seconds to attract their attention, but should you succeed, they’ll concentrate for hours

Just look at how long these younger generations spend browsing social media platforms: some research studies have Gen Z respondents reporting spending 48 hours per month on TikTok. That’s two full days

So, what can we learn from social media about Gen Z’s approach to TV? We’ve explored their viewing habits, and we’re giving you the best ways to promote your show to this generation of digital natives. 

Gen Z and TV: What do we know about their viewing habits?

Young people are not averse to spending a lot of time concentrating on something they enjoy. That’s why they spend a lot of time on social media, a lot of time playing video games, and a lot of time creating content of their own

But we also know that they’re not tuning into terrestrial TV – or, at least, they’re not doing it often. 

Big entertainment brands like Netflix and HBO have figured out the perfect way to engage these younger viewers. The biggest shows on a streaming service have legions of online fans, active communities who discuss each episode, and they’re tuning in in their millions. 

The newest season of Netflix’s Stranger Things, for example, broke records when it amassed 781.04 million hours viewed in its first two and half weeks alone. 

In fact, it’s these online communities which spell the success, or potential failure, of a show. 

Gen Z Favourite TV shows

Gen Z has an eclectic taste. 

We can tell this just by looking at the biggest TV shows that they love to watch and talk about. From Bridgerton, to House of the Dragon. Sex Education to Wednesday. The Idol, to Riches. Genre is not itself the defining aspect behind a TV show’s popularity with this younger generation of viewers. 


Wednesday Addams has a word of advice for tonight's Emmy nominees:

♬ original sound - Netflix

The biggest similarity between them? The hub of activity around them online. 

Gen Z is discussing their favourite shows not only on short, snappy platforms like Twitter – they’re getting super engaged, creating content of their own on TikTok, and picking apart the episodes they love the most in dedicated spaces on Reddit, Discord and more. 

The biggest shows have the most active social media communities – and that’s no coincidence.

The role of social media

It’s a fact that Gen Z consumers distrust ads even more than millennials and Gen Xers do. In fact, 99% of them report frequently skipping ads, which means that reaching them effectively can be a minefield for brands. 

However, social media marketing has been proven much more effective in attracting Gen Z interest. That’s partly down to the kind of content that appears on social media. Gen Zers mostly go to social media platforms for entertainment, and to keep in contact with their friends and peers

Marketing materials which provide a way for both of those activities are sure to have the most positive impact. 

And, in the case of TV shows, it’s actually quite simple to nail both outcomes. After all, Gen Zers love the sense of community they find online. By rallying an online community around your TV show, engaging with entertaining content and building this into your marketing outreach, you’ll be able to supercharge Generation Z’s interest. 

How to promote your TV show to Gen Z: 4 tips for brands

Fostering that link between TV and social media is crucial to the success of a TV show’s marketing campaign. We’ve put together 4 tips on how to create a buzzing online community of young viewers.

1. Create an online hub

No matter where your TV show is airing, whether it’s on a terrestrial channel or a streaming service, you’ll want to create an online hub. 

Tapping into a variety of online platforms is the best way to build an engaged community. Gen Zers use platforms like TikTok, Reddit and Discord to talk about their interests, and while those can be things like ‘fitness’ or ‘creepy stories’, they’re also just as active around individual shows and fanbases. 

The new Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, for example, has a very active SubReddit where users post memes, episode reactions, and theories – and after each episode it’s buzzing with new content, meaning that it’s a self-sustaining form of advertising. 

R/HouseOfTheDragon is where many redditors go to discuss the HBO show.

Of course, you can’t always predict all the reactions online – to know that, you’d have to keep abreast of what people are talking about, and react fast. 

That’s one of the reasons we developed the industry-leading Bytesights; a social tracking tool which identifies trends just as they are starting to happen, so brands can get in early, direct the conversations, and benefit from being at the start of a viral moment. 

Learn more about Bytesights here

2. Use audio marketing

Home of viral trends, TikTok is a hub of content marketing, and it takes all forms. 

We already know that Gen Z loves video content above all other forms of advertising – but one of the underrated methods of advertising through video? Creating an audio

There are several examples of a trending audio causing an upswing in viewers for Gen Z TV shows. Take, for example, HBO’s popular Zendaya-starring drama Euphoria, which went viral on TikTok after one of the main characters, Cassie, declared: “Well if that makes me a villain, so be it.” 

The resulting audio clip was used by thousands of TikTokers, who placed her lines over clips of them doing things otherwise frowned upon – like cracking the spine of their new book, or otherwise leaning fully into their Villain Era and refusing to back down from conflict. 

@adeleisbooked don’t have anything to post so here’s a draft #booktoker #czechbooktok ♬ if that makes me a villain - sara

In this way, although the audio clip was divorced from the context of the show itself, its virality introduced the show to a whole new audience of potential viewers, who could follow the audio back to the source, and explore the TV show from there. 

Even more recently, an audio clip from HBO’s House of The Dragon actors that has become a TikTok sound meme. Notably, this viral trend didn’t originate from audio from the TV series itself; it was a cast-member interview from a ‘getting-to-know-you’ style video posted to HBO Max’s YouTube channel, which the brand cut down into short-form video clips for a TikTok post.

In the clip, actress Olivia Cooke asks her co-star Emma D’Arcy, “What’s your drink of choice?” and with a raise of their brow, D’Arcy smoothly answers, “A Negroni. Sbagliato… with Prosecco in it.”

HBO’s associated TikTok sound that accompanied the clip became incredibly popular as TikTok users everywhere created their own videos with D’Arcy’s voice as their audio. The reason? D’Arcy’s delivery is so self-assured that, in Mashable’s words, it’s “making people horny.” 

It led to a TikTok trend (and even caused a 501% increase in Google searches for ‘Negroni Spagliato’) – all of which resulted in an extraordinary extra boost of the reach and sentiment for the series and actor profiles.

Learn more about TikTok Sound Memes and how to use them to grow your brand. 

3. Partner with influencers

Any time you want to send something viral online, you’ll find that influencers are the key to supercharging your content – introducing it to audiences of engaged viewers and creating bespoke content that they know will perform well. 

@littlejem4 Here's some recreated wonderful wonders from #theringsofpower that I created #lotronprime @Prime Video UK #cosplay #props #ad ♬ original sound - LittleJem

In this ad for Amazon Prime’s The Rings of Power, for example, they partnered with LittleJem (@LittleJem4), a UK-based influencer famous for her cosplay and prop making videos

By allowing her the freedom to create content which matches her usual fare, Amazon Prime ensured that her viewers would be interested and engaged with the content, directing their attention towards the new TV show via a channel they already cared about.

4. Keep the discussion flowing

We know from BookTok success stories, (read more about those in our article ‘How to Promote a Book on Social Media’), that while striking while the iron is hot is important, there’s no time limit on the successful promotion of a hero piece of content. 

Just like books can become bestsellers years after their release, social media can see a show catapulted to online fame weeks after air. 

So it’s more important than ever to keep the discussion flowing even after your show has finished its run. 

@netflix ranking erica's best lines because she is ALWAYS the moment #strangerthings ♬ original sound - Netflix


the cobra kai cast plays our newest mobile game: Netflix Heads Up!

♬ original sound - Netflix Geeked

From funny edits, to behind-the-scenes clips, cast interviews to meme round-ups – continuing to post about your TV show will keep Gen Z viewers engaged, interested, and looking forward to the next release

Lights, camera, engagement…

Getting Gen Zers to sustain continuous interest in something like a TV show is less a case of trying to push them into a more ‘traditional’ way of engaging with televisual media, and much more about meeting them where they are: social media

For Gen Z, the act of watching a TV show is only a small part of the overall experience of engaging with it, and it’s in the surrounding activities that production, streaming platforms and marketing companies alike can really capture and sustain their interest. 

By leaning into the online sense of community surrounding a growing fanbase, you can ensure that Gen Zers come back to the show over and over – inciting FOMO, engaging with other fans, and keeping discussions going long after the end credits have played. 

Understanding what makes young adults and teens tick on their small screen is our area of expertise. If you’re looking to transform Gen Z’s interest in your show, get in touch: we’ll walk you through how we’ll capture their attention – and continue the relationship in the long term.

Advertising to Gen Z isn’t as simple as just launching a TV show and waiting for the views; you’ve got to take an active role in creating buzz on social media. Here are more tips to help you get a feel for the kind of communities that work at attracting Gen Z online: 

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