Tuesday, July 3, 2007

TV Networks and Median Age

Last week, Magna Global released their annual study of the median ages of TV shows and networks. Here is the USA Today article about it.

(For those who don't watch "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader," median age is the age in which half the audience is older and half is younger. It's the midpoint.)

The Washington Post and other publications made big news about how "old" TV networks and shows have become, with the median age hitting 40 and higher (CBS, NBC and ABC have median ages at 50 and higher). Even "Saturday Night Live" now has a median age of 45. Fox's big hit "24" should be called "48," since that is the median age of their viewers.

Since the networks still talk about the "coveted" 18-49 demographic, these figures suggest TV networks are out of line with ... well, themselves. Their viewers are mostly over the age of 49, but they don't seem to develop programming for them, or try to sell advertisers on them.

We don't think the sky is falling when it comes to TV viewership when you consider that the median age in America for those over the age of 18 is actually 44 years old. (The median age for the entire population, from age 0 to 110 is 36.) But among those over 18, which is the universe of interest to TV networks, the median age is 44. So programs and networks with slightly older median ages doesn't feel so out of line to us.

Here's a chart the Washington Post published showing Prime Time shows and respective median ages. Remember, 44 is the national number.

We offer this as a public service to help those marketers and TV networks better understand the world of TV viewership is changing, but not so fast as to suggest only "old" people watch TV. Unless they consider Boomers "old."


GoingLikeSixty.com said...

I'm confused. You say the coveted demo is 18-49, the median age for TV viewers is 45, so that does put the nets at the high end of the coveted demo.
Then you end by saying that all is not lost "at least for Boomers."
Boomers are 43-61. So I agree that TV might reach boomers, but not the coveted 18-49, right?

Matt Thornhill & John Martin said...

We're probably the confused ones. Our point is that the networks think all advertisers covet the 18-49 demo -- which was true for about 40 years, when Boomers were 18 to 49.

Now, networks still want 18 to 49 year olds, but with a median age of 50 and higher for NBC, ABC, and CBS, they are obviously more effective at delivering older consumers. We don't think that's a bad thing since Boomers spend about $400 billion more annually on consumer goods and services than any other generation.

The conundrum is that the TV networks tend to dismiss Boomers ("they're already watching TV") when it comes to programming, trying instead to lure younger viewers with reality shows and the like. It isn't working, of course, because TV isn't YouTube and younger viewers simply aren't interested.

In the end, TV networks need to accept the audiences they have, cater to them, and attract ad dollars. And that, my friend, is the Boomer Consumer.

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