More and more adolescents and young adults watch entertainment (movies, television series, web series, and videos) on the Internet. This trend seems linked to the growth in available content, to the profound changes taking place within the cultural industries, and to the rapid development of mobile devices. The transformation of the audio-visual landscape is causing formats, genres and categories traditionally associated with conventional television content to evolve.
This empirical study’s purpose, then, is to understand how youth audiences (teenagers and young adults) experience these new online viewing practices and how they categorize and describe them. What content are they watching on the Internet for entertainment purposes? How much time do they spend watching audio-visual entertainment content online? How do they label the online content that they watch? What place does classic television viewing still hold? And lastly, do these processes vary by age and gender?
Our analysis was based on an exploratory qualitative design. We held 10 focus groups with young Quebecois people aged 12 to 25 (28 girls/women and 33 boys/men) from diverse cultural and social backgrounds. Our findings indicate that the Internet is becoming the primary viewing source for entertainment, especially among young adults. We found that the time spent online varies according to gender and age. Furthermore, adolescents and young adults watch a wide-ranging pool of online audiovisual content, with different things at different times of day, as the participants naturally create personal viewing schedules. Adolescents distinguish between two key forms of online entertainment content: long formats chiefly comprising original television content (reality shows, dramas, sitcoms and films) and shorter formats more suited to original web productions and accessed usually via YouTube or Facebook. Most of the young people questioned feel no need to categorise the content they watch online beyond liking or disliking it. We found, however, that some young people, especially young adults, systematize content into multiple diverse categories based on classic fiction classifications, context of viewing (where and with whom), enjoyment levels (moderate or intense) and attributes relating to the websites used to access it or the YouTube channels’ names.