Media behaviour of generations vincenzo tocco; 15619000; Consumer behaviour


This assignment focuses on the question to what extent the consumer behaviour of Millennials differs to that of previous generations in the area of entertainment. In particular, how the media consumption between Millennials and older Generations, i.e. members of the Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979) and Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), has changed due to popular ‘Video on demand’ services (Schiffman, 215, p. 330-331). More and more consumers do neither want to be bothered by long advertisement breaks in between television content nor to rely on the broadcasting timetable of TV channels anymore. Instead, they wish to have their personal ‘primetime’ whenever and wherever they want to - without any interruptions. In this case, consumers have a variety of ‘Video on Demand’ services to choose from such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Now TV, Sky Go, iTunes, Google Play, and YouTube. Now, while Richter (2017) suggests that Millennials are the generation who uses ‘Video on Demand’ services the most, it is important to understand the differences between each generation and their respective behaviour. Turning to the characteristics of the generations.

Comparing the media behaviour of Millennials with the older generations

Millennials (or also called Generations Y) are people born between the years 1982 and 2000 (Miller, 2015, 263). They can be described as ’tech-savvy‘ due to the fact that they were born in the age of the internet and technology (Miller and Washington, 2015, 263). This can be seen as an advantage over the other generations. Their main media consumption channel for video is television, which can be applied to generations of the Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers as well (Hemphill, 2016). Although all of these three generations use the internet in their daily life, they use it each in different ways, for instance Baby Boomers are more likely to use the internet to write an email, Generation X’ers have the highest use of digital news media and the Millennials are the generation which is most active on social media platforms (Hemphill, 2016). In addition to that, the Millennials are the most mobile generation with 84% of them owning a smartphone (McGrath, 2016). However, they are not the generation with the highest usage of tablet computers, which are the members of Generation X. According to a study of Ofocm (2016), Millenials use their tablet computers 8% less than Generation X’ers to go online in the UK. Furthermore, 90% of Millennials have second-screened, mostly with the smartphone, while watching TV or ‘Video on Demand’ services (McGrath, 2016).

Moreover, Millennials can be described as easily bored (Schiffman and Wisenblit, 2015, 329) and are accustomed to instant gratification (PricewatherhouseCoopers, 2012). Furthermore, Chester (2002, 21) describes Millennials inter alia as impatient. This may suggest that they want to watch the content they desire instantaneously in form of ‘Video on Demand’ services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video. In this case, the customer of such a service has a vast online video store with a wide range of content to choose from regardless of time and place. Now, that may have led Millennials to a stronger focus on ‘Video on Demand’ content. For that. the next section will analyse the consumer behaviour of the generations Millennial, Generation X, and Baby Boomers regarding their TV and ‘Video on Demand’ consumption.

Television and ‘Video on Demand’ consumption of the generations

According to a study by The Nielsen Company (2016), the Millennial generation does use ‘Video on Demand’ services more often than people who were born as Generation X’ers or Baby Boomers. 48% of Millennials are using ‘Video on Demand’ services daily, whereas only 38% of Generation X’ers and 26% Baby Boomers do so. Moreover, more Generation X’ers (77%) pay for cable or satellite program than Millennials (73%) do. Furthermore, the TV consumption of sixteen to twenty-four-year-olds has decreased by 9% from the year 2013 to 2014 (Ofcom, 2017). This may suggest that the media consumption of the Millennial generation slowly shifts away from the traditional TV to ‘Video on Demand’ services.

What attracts Millennials to ‘Video on Demand ‘– Using the Instrumental Conditioning Model by B.F. Skinner

As previously stated, one of the characteristics of Millennials is that they are familiar with instant satisfaction (Schiffman and Wisenblit, 2015, 329). It follows that this characteristic behaviour is applied to one of the four conditioning techniques of the ‘Instrumental Conditioning Model’ by B.F. Skinner i.e. positive reinforcement. In this specific example, the stimulus situation is that a member of the Millennial generation wants to watch a particular movie. They will proceed their intention with a trial and error process until they experience positive reinforcement resulting from a certain response of their behaviour (Solomon et al. 2016, 264-266). To begin, the Millennial considers watching the desired movie at the local cinema, which may not result in an instant positive reinforcement as wished, because they first have to overcome certain obstacles when they want to watch a movie at the cinema i.e. driving to the cinema, which is an expenditure of time, finding a timeslot in which the movie is shown, wait in line to purchase a ticket for the desired movie, watching the advertisements before the movie starts or perhaps, in the worst case, the desired movie is no longer available at the chosen cinema. Hence, no direct positive reinforcement for the member of the Millennial generation. Furthermore, there may be the possibility for the Millennial to watch the desired movie on his or her television at home. This would solve the issue of no direct positive reinforcement due to a drive to the local cinema. Nevertheless, it may occur that the desired movie is not broadcasted on any channel on television. Moreover, because of a predetermined television program, the viewer will not have the opportunity to watch the requested content immediately and furthermore, will have interruptions in form of television advertisement in between the program. Thus, there is again no instant reinforcement for the Millennial viewer who wants to watch a particular movie. Finally, the viewer could decide to use a ‘Video on Demand’ service such as Netflix to watch the desired movie. In this case, the viewer would not have to leave his or her home. Furthermore, the viewer would not be bound to an existing television program and would not be interrupted by television advertisements. Therefore, it would lead to instant reinforcement for the Millennial. This positive experience in form of a direct reward for the viewer could lead to a repetition of the behaviour since it reinforced the desired response of their behaviour. That is, watching movies over ‘Video on Demand’ services again and perhaps purchasing a subscription to the particular service e.g. Netflix.

Critique of the Instrumental Conditioning Model

Figure 1. (Slideshare, 2017). A Model of Instrumental Conditioning; Figure 2. (The Psychology Notes Headquarters, 2017) Types of Operant Conditioning; Figure 3. (Alchetron, 2017) B. F. Skinner Beyond Freedom and Dignity B F Skinner ABC of Success; Figure 4. (Yin, S. 2017) B.F. Skinner - An inside look; Figure 5. (Simpsons wiki, 2017) Principle Seymour Skinner

Overall, B.F. Skinner created an effect model which can be applied to many parts of psychology. Nevertheless, the instrumental conditioning has some weaknesses as well. First, the conditioning technique used above is called positive reinforcement, which is one of four techniques in B.F. Skinner’s model (Jansson-Boyd, 2012, 29-31). Instrumental conditioning either reinforces a good behaviour with a positive / negative reinforcement or punishes a bad behaviour with a positive / negative punishment (Solomon et al., 2013). Thus, the theory suggests that there are only good or bad behaviours, but nothing in between.

Second, the theory does not take cognitive factors into account and therefore is not a complete illustration of the learning process of humans and animals (McLeod, S. A. 2007). Conversely, the theory of cognitive learning stresses the importance of internal mental processes. The theory suggests that people act as problem-solvers who process information from their environment (Solomon, 2013, 266).

Third, the application of a conditioning model on human beings may be questionable in an ethic way of thinking. It can be argued that these techniques can be used to engineer preselected, specific changes in the behaviour of human beings (Carrera et al., 1970). This may raise the question if it is righteous to manipulate human behaviour regardless of if the results are going to be ’good’, and furthermore, whose it is to judge which behaviour can be considered as ‘good’ and which as ‘bad’? However, Bandura (1977) argues that humans learn from observing the actions of others and monitor the resulting reinforcement they receive from the act.

Finally, the model was tested based on an experiment with a rat in a laboratory (Dai and Ruan, 2010). This may lead to the question if the behaviour of a rat and the behaviour of humans can be generalised under the same theory of behaviour. According to Kohler and Winter (1973), the behaviour of animals differs from that of a human in the process of problem-solving.


To summarise, based on the statistics mentioned above combined with the characteristics of Millennials according to various literature and the application of the ‘Instrumental Conditioning Model onto the Millennial generation, it can be concluded that and why Millennials use ‘Video on demand’ services the most.


Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. 1st ed. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Blythe, J. (2013). Consumer behaviour. 2nd ed. London, United Kingdom: SAGE Publications.

Carrera, F. and Adams, P. (1970). An ethical perspective on operant conditioning. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 9(4), pp.607-623.

Chester, E. (2002). Employing generation why?. 1st ed. Lakewood, Colo.: Tucker House, p.21.

Dai, L. and Ruan, X. (2010). Skinner-Rat Experiment Based on Autonomous Operant Conditioning Automata.

Hemphill, B. (2016). Yahoo Australia reveals Gen X and millennial media habits. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Jansson-Boyd, C. (2012). Consumer psychology. 1st ed. Maidenhead: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill, pp.29-31.

Kohler, W. and Winter, E. (1973). The mentality of apes. 1st ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

McGrath, F. (2016). Know the audience: Millennials. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

McLeod, S. (2007). B.F. Skinner | Operant Conditioning | Simply Psychology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

McSweeney, F. and Murphy, E. (2014). The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of operant and classical conditioning. 1st ed. Malden, Mass. [u.a.]: Wiley Blackwell.

Miller, R. and Washington, K. (2015). Consumer behavior 2015-2016. 1st ed. p.263.

Ofcom, (2016). Tablet usage to go online by age UK 2015 | Statistic. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Ofcom, (2017). Watching television regularly by age UK 2013-2014 | Survey. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

PricewatherhouseCooper, (2012). [online] Business Inside. Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Richter, F. (2017). Poll Reveals Generational Gap in Media Preferences. [online] Statista Infographics. Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Schiffman, L. and Wisenblit, J. (2015). Consumer behavior. 1st ed. Boston [u.a.]: Pearson, p.329.

Solomon, M., Bamossy, G., Askegaard, S. and Hogg, M. (2013). Consumer behaviour. 5th ed. pp.264-266.

The Nielsen Company, (2016). On-demand demographics: VOD viewing across generations. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

Created By
Vincenzo Tocco

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.