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Median Age for Primetime Viewing Is Up? Not a Problem for Advertisers in Some Mass-Reach Shows

11/02/2012 02:12:05 PM Eastern

The broadcast network primetime audience has aged up so far
this season -- cumulatively, it has risen by about two years per network, and
about the same amount per the returning series. But the question -- at least
for advertisers -- is: Are networks and shows aging gracefully (read:
profitably)?

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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