A Gen-Xer Figures Out Entertainment Media: Apple, Netflix, and Change

Many underestimate the impact that Gen-X, sometimes called the “Forgotten Generation,” has on media. But that may not be a great idea. Shashank Srivastava of Deloitte says,

“Generation X’s emergence as avid consumers of mobile video presents new-age media and entertainment companies with an attractive opportunity. According to a recent Deloitte report, net wealth in the United States will grow to $120 trillion by 2030. Compared with other age groups, Generation X will experience the greatest increase in the share of national wealth through this period.8 This means Gen X now blends digital savviness with relatively high levels of disposable income—a dream scenario for providers of media and entertainment solutions” (2019, para.5). The numbers are pretty surprising.

Deloitte Tracks High Growth from Gen-X Use of Portable Streaming Media

This graph from Deloitte reveals high growth numbers for Gen-Xers using portable streaming media.

I grew up listening to vinyl albums on my family’s enormous console headphones, using giant white headphones that tuned out the rest of the world. Then I got my very own little transistor radio and listened to The Eagles, Kansas, and Blondie. For Christmas my sixth-grade year, my mom went to a pawn shop and bought me my very own turntable system, and then I just stayed in my room listening to Abba, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Jesus Christ Superstar (the original concept album), and the soundtrack of The Sound of Music . Then cassette tapes. Then CDs. Finally, digital streaming for music.

I watched TV on the console TV and adjusted the rabbit ear antenna, I physically turned a dial to get one of the five stations available. My dad bought a TV guide every week when he did the grocery shopping, and that’s how we decided what to watch.

I remember the advent of VHS and renting tapes at the grocery store, then Blockbuster. When Netflix debuted its mail service, I scoffed, I couldn’t imagine anyone would be okay with waiting for a DVD to arrive at their home. Then I discovered I could find more obscure or older films that way. Of course, Netflix crested the wave of the future when it transitioned to streaming.

Ways Apple & Netflix changed how we consume media:

  • Consumption: When iTunes made singles available for .99 cents, it changed the model for how musicians make music and how consumers buy it. Singles became de rigueur, listeners now buy the single instead of the album; the old idea of a side A and a side B like used to be on a 45 or just developing a story through music like Pink Floyd’s masterwork The Wall have given way to the reign of the single. That’s what gets written, that’s what gets recorded and sold (AIMM Team, 2017). Video content has also become shorter, with short films and webisodes becoming sharp competition for feature-length films.
  • Distribution: artists don’t have to get a major contract to get their art out there. Indie creators are able to upload digital files for purchase or streaming. The gatekeeper studios have lost a significant amount of power (AIMM Team, 2017). My own daughter has produced what is now an award-winning streaming series that is available on YouTube, she didn’t have to wait for the suits to give her permission. Their team crowdsourced funding then set about making a truly delightful series (called Aftering, in case you’re interested). Netflix led the charge, their vision, which seemed impossible, is now the juggernaut that Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Tubi can’t touch, Disney+ may be its closest competitor. “The shift from mail-in orders to a cloud streaming service came with a hike in customer loyalty and a brand that competitors still fight tooth and nail to beat in the market” (Krieg, n.d., para.6).

What Does the Future Hold?

I am reading The Candy House by Jennifer Egan right now, and one of the characters, set in 2034, has implants that record conversations, track her heartbeat, monitor her movements, and record her thoughts. It’s not hard to imagine that the next big jump in technology will be implants that enable us to listen to music or watch TV with a simple press of thumb to index finger and putting on VR goggles or tapping our earbud implants.

A hand holding a remote turns the television to Netflix
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com


AIMMTeam. (2017, May 15). How iTunes changed the music industry. Atlanta Institute of Music and Media.

Krieg, V. (n.d.). How Netflix moved operations to the cloud and saw revenue boom to the billions: a digital transformation case study on creating better customer experiences. Sharpen.

Srivastava, S. (2019, July 17). Generation X ups its media game. Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/generation-x-ups-its-media-consumption-game.html