Median Age for Primetime Viewing Is Up? Not a Problem for Advertisers in Some Mass-Reach Shows
By John Consoli -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/2/2012 2:12:05 PM
Plenty of media attention is focused on median age these days, but younger doesn't always mean a better chance for success, or more productive ad opportunities.
CBS has some of the oldest-skewing veteran series in primetime, but these shows are continuing to produce not only mass viewership but also solid 18-49 ratings, better than just about all of the new and younger-skewing series.
NCIS, with a median age audience of 60, up from 58 last season, is the most-watched primetime show on television outside of sports. NCIS is averaging 18.9 million viewers but is also averaging a 3.6 18-49 rating, tied for the highest among TV dramas with the younger-skewing Grey's Anatomy in the demo. Grey's has a median age audience of 50.
Other older-skewing CBS series with solid 18-49 demo ratings include: NCIS: Los Angeles, with a median age of 60, an average viewership of 15.8 million (making it the second most-watched drama on television) and an 18-49 rating of 3.0; Person of Interest, a second-year drama with a median age audience of 59, averaging 14.2 million viewers and a 2.9 demo rating; and Criminal Minds, with a median age of 56 and an average audience of 11.6 million viewers with a 3.1 18-49 rating.
Having a median-age audience in the 40s hasn't helped new series this season, such as CBS' Partners and NBC's The New Normal. Both are underperforming among viewers 18-49, as are new Fox sitcoms Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project. And the two Fox series have median age audiences of 39 and 35, respectively.
A couple of younger-skewing new series are doing pretty well. NBC's sci-fi drama Revolution, with a median age of 48, is averaging 8.5 million viewers but with a solid 3.3 18-49 rating, fourth highest among all TV dramas. Meanwhile, The CW's drama Arrow, with a median age of 46, is drawing 3.7 million viewers, which is about three times the average of most CW shows in live-viewing mode. The series is also averaging a 1.2 18-49 demo, which is high for a CW series, since many of the network's viewers are now watching streamed versions online.
Another 40-something-skewing show, ABC's second-season Sunday drama Once Upon a Time, is also having a solid season. The series is averaging 10.1 million viewers and a 3.4 18-49 demo rating, third best among all TV dramas. And ABC's popular veteran sitcom Modern Family, with a median age of 46, is drawing 12.8 million viewers and a 5.0 18-49 rating, the highest demo rating on television when sports events are excluded.
Advertisers who want to reach a younger audience and still get good 18-49 value might want to try Fox's Sunday animated series The Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad. The Simpsons has a median-age viewer of 33 and draws 7.3 million viewers, but also has a sizable 3.4 18-49 demo rating. Family Guy has a median age of 31, is averaging 6.6 million viewers and pulls in a similar 3.4 demo rating. American Dad is the youngest-skewing series on television with a median-age viewer of 30. The series averages only 5.2 million but draws a 2.6 18-49 demo rating.
Dave Poltrack, chief research officer at CBS, believes that heavy DVR viewing in the first several weeks of the season may be a result of consumers trying to sample as many new shows as possible while also faithfully tuning in to their regular shows -- which is one explanation for why live viewership is down so far this season. The intent to sample all the new programming may also account for why some of the median ages are up a bit on many of the returning series so far, as younger viewers abandon some of those shows to sample the new fare.
Regardless of explanations or theories, the viewership numbers so far this season still show that in many cases, a mass-reach older-skewing series can still draw higher concentrations of younger viewers than series that skew much younger. That's what differentiates the mass reach of broadcast networks from the more targeted reach of cable.
Skewing Older Still
Three returning primetime series this season have median-age audiences about five years older so far this season than last season -- CBS' sitcom Two and a Half Men and the Fox sitcoms Raising Hope and Glee.
Two and a Half Men through the opening weeks last season had a median-age audience of 47 and this season it has so far aged up to 52. However, some of that can be attributed to the large number of viewers that watched last season's premiere episode with Ashton Kutcher's debut. By the end of the season, Men had a median-age audience of 50.
Glee started off last season with a median-age audience of 35 but that rose to about 40. Raising Hope opened last season with a median-age audience of 36 compared to its 41 this season, but ended last year with a median-age audience of 39. So the differences seemed to close up as the season went on and the casual TV viewers began to disappear -- with the same situation perhaps occurring this season.
Five weeks into the new season, most of the returning shows are seeing between a one- and three-year increase in the average median age of their viewers. Only a couple of returning series are flat in regard to median age: Fox sitcom New Girl with a median-age viewer of 34, CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls with its median age of 48 and Fox's Thursday edition of The X Factor with a median age of 46. NBC's The Voice, which this season has a median-age audience of 45, was on last spring, so an early season comparison could not be made.
The oldest-skewing show in primetime television this season has already been canceled. That would be the CBS Friday night drama Made in Jersey. It had a median-age viewer of 64, slightly older than CBS' other Friday night dramas Blue Bloods and CSI: NY, both with median-age audiences of 63. Made in Jersey was drawing a tolerable Friday night audience of 7.3 million, but its 18-49 rating was a dismal 0.9.
Other than the two CBS Friday dramas, the oldest-skewing show in primetime is ABC's Dancing With the Stars; its two weekly episodes post median-age audiences of 62.
The oldest-skewing new series is CBS' Tuesday drama Vegas at 61. CBS' new Thursday drama Elementary has a median-age audience of 58 and ABC Thursday night freshman drama Last Resort clocks in at 57.
All of the above-mentioned older-skewing series, except for Last Resort, are drawing solid mass audiences of more than 10 million per episode. Vegas is, so far, the most-watched new drama in broadcast primetime, averaging 12.3 million viewers, although its 18-49 rating is only at a 1.7. Elementary is drawing 11.4 million viewers and has a solid 2.5 18-49 rating. The other older-skewing shows draw large audiences but in older demos. Blue Bloods averages 10.4 million viewers but only a 1.0 18-49 rating and CSI: NY has averaged 9.1 million viewers but only a 1.4 18-49 rating. The Dancing With the Stars shows on Monday and Tuesday nights are averaging 13.4 and 12.3 viewers, respectively, and 18-49 demo ratings of 2.2 and 2.1. Last Resort is pulling in only 7.5 million viewers and a 1.7 18-49 rating.
There is a group of 50-something-skewing new series that are ratings-challenged already. NBC's Wednesday night drama Chicago Fire, with a median-age audience of 55, has averaged only 6.2 million viewers and a 1.8 18-49 rating; NBC sitcom Animal Practice has already been canceled, but with a median age of 54, it was averaging only 4.2 million viewers and a 1.2 demo rating; and Fox drama Mob Doctor with a median age of 54 is averaging 3.5 million viewers and a 1.0 demo rating.
Other new first-year ratings-challenged older-skewing shows include: ABC drama 666 Park Avenue with a median age of 53, 5.3 million viewers and a 1.8 18-49 rating; ABC sitcom The Neighbors, with a median age audience of 51, averaging 6.5 million viewers and a 2.0 demo rating; The CW's Emily Owens M.D., with a median age of 51, averaging 1.4 million viewers and a 0.4 demo rating; and NBC's Guys With Kids, with a median age of 50 and averaging 4.4 million with a 1.5 18-49 rating.
Vegas and Elementary have the best shots at coming back next season, while Last Resort is on the bubble along with the highly-touted ABC freshman drama Nashville, which opened decently but has regressed a bit. That series has a median-age viewer of 53 and is averaging 7.4 million viewers with a 2.3 demo rating.
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