Much has been written about how the median age of the
broadcast network audience has been rising, with younger viewers watching less
traditional television. A look at Nielsen season-to-date ratings for the 18-34,
18-49 and 25-54 demos doesn't show a huge difference in the percentages of
decline among three of the networks. With the exception of The CW's larger
discrepancies and NBC's rising numbers, networks are generally all in the same
leaky boat, losing viewers across demos.
And yet, there are still pockets of coveted millennials seeking out content that advertisers can reach. While many younger viewers are watching shows that rate higher for their demo than any other, lots of millennials are also tuning into series with an average viewer age more aligned with their parents' demos.
The most watched broadcast entertainment show among 18-34 millennial
viewers is ABC's Modern Family with a 3.8 rating through the first nine
weeks of the season, according to Nielsen data. Next is NBC's The Voice,
averaging a 3.7.
Proving that the broadcast networks are, indeed, broad in
their reach, the third-highest rated show among millennials is CBS' The Big
Bang Theory with a 3.4 rating, not as high as its 18-49 or 25-54 ratings
but still solid, and considered somewhat of a bonus audience for advertisers
that are buying it with 18-49 or 25-54 ratings guarantees.
Rounding out the top 10 among 18-34 viewers are Fox's Family Guy (3.3 demo rating), the
Tuesday edition of The Voice (3.2), Fox's The Simpsons (3.2), Fox's
Wednesday showing of The X Factor (3.0), ABC drama Once Upon a Time
(2.9), Fox sitcom New Girl (2.9) and ABC's Grey's Anatomy (2.8).
The ratings bear out that comedies skew younger than dramas.
Among the 23 shows that have a 2.0 or higher rating among millennials, 15 are
sitcoms or animated comedies. Four are the two editions each of The Voice and The X Factor, and only three are dramas. The dramas are Grey's
Anatomy, NBC freshman sci-fi drama Revolution (2.3) and ABC's second-year
drama Revenge (2.1).
All five of Fox's Sunday animation block shows -- Family
Guy, The Simpsons, American Dad (2.6), Bob's Burgers (2.4) and The Cleveland
Show (2.2) -- are over the 2.0 mark in the demo. They also have
among the youngest median age viewers on broadcast television. American Dad
has a median age of 30, Family Guy and Bob's Burgers are at 31, TheCleveland Show is 32 and The
Simpsons is at 33.
In terms of various demo shifts this season, ABC, across all
of its primetime programming, is averaging a 10.8% ratings decline in the 18-34
demo, compared to a decline of 12.8% among viewers 18-49 and 12.9% among
CBS is averaging a 20% decline in its 18-34 rating, compared
to a 17.9% drop in its 18-49 number and an 18.4% decline in its 25-54 audience.
Fox is averaging a 23.4% decline in its 18-34 rating,
compared to a 26.7% drop for 18-49 and 26.5% in 25-54.
The CW is averaging a 20.5% drop in its 18-34 rating,
compared to a 14.3% decline in its 18-49 rating and a 14.3% drop for 25-54.
Meanwhile, NBC, riding the wave created by the addition of
two nights of The Voice this season, is up 21.6% in its 18-34 rating, up
21.7% in 18-49 and 22.2% in the 25-54 demo.
Across the board, the five networks are down 8.8% in the
18-34 demo, 8.3% for 18-49 and 6.9% in 25-54.
All that said, of the total audience watching primetime
television this season, only 24 of the top 100 broadcast primetime
shows -- excluding football telecasts -- have a live-plus-same-day 18-34 rating of
2.0 or higher, while only six have an 18-34 rating higher than a 3.0 and
none have a rating higher than a 4.0.
In comparison, 40 of the top 100 shows have an 18-49 rating
of 2.0 or higher, 13 have an 18-49 rating higher than a 3.0 and three have a
rating higher than a 4.0.
For additional proof that broadcast television draws more
older viewers: 56 of the top 100 shows have a 25-54 rating of 2.0 or higher, 27
have a 25-54 rating of 3.0 or higher, 10 have a rating higher than 4.0, three
have a rating higher than 5.0 and one -- The
Big Bang Theory -- has a 25-54 rating higher than 6.0.
CBS may have a reputation for being the oldest-skewing
broadcast network in primetime, but it still has four sitcoms and one
drama in that top 24 among millennials, including Big Bang, How I
Met Your Mother (2.6), 2 Broke Girls (2.5), Two and a Half Men
(2.4) and NCIS.
They Can Get It for
Although the other primetime series among the top 100
broadcast shows average under that 2.0 demo mark, advertisers can pick up
decent numbers of millennials by buying time in the most watched shows overall.
For example, CBS' drama NCIS, the fourth-highest rated show in the 25-54
demo with a 4.8 rating, and the seventh highest in the 18-49 demo with a 3.4
rating, also produces a 2.0 in the 18-34 demo. That's not bad for a series with
a median age of 60.
Other older-skewing shows that give advertisers a worthwhile
share of millennials include CBS drama Criminal Minds, with a median age
of 56 and an 18-34 demo rating of 1.9; and CBS dramas NCIS: Los Angeles
and Person of Interest, which have median age audiences of 60 and 59,
respectively, and have averaged 18-34 ratings of 1.6 and 1.5.
Other shows with median age audiences of over 50 that are
producing 18-34 ratings above 1.5 include: ABC sitcom The Middle and
drama Nashville; Fox drama Bones and sitcom Raising Hope;
and CBS sitcom Mike & Molly and newsmagazine 60 Minutes.
This, of course, is hardly an across-the-board phenomenon. Plenty
of shows post an older median age audience and don't get many millennial
viewers at all. Among those are CBS Friday night dramas Blue Bloods and CSI:
NY which both have a median age of 63 -- the oldest in
primetime -- with each bringing in an 18-34 rating of 0.8. CBS dramas The
Good Wife and The Mentalist both have median age audiences of 60 and
18-34 ratings of 0.9 and 1.0, respectively.
While it might just be coincidence, two freshman shows
already cancelled were among the least watched by millennials -- NBC's Animal
Practice (0.9) and ABC's Last Resort (1.1). Another freshman
series, Fox's The Mob Doctor, for
which the network has not ordered any new episodes, is averaging a 0.8 in the
18-34 demo, while ABC's struggling freshman drama 666 Park Avenue is
averaging a 1.2 in the younger demo.
Since The CW has a lower distribution than the Big Four
English-language broadcasters and because the viewing patterns include a higher
percentage of delayed viewing or viewing via streaming on the network's website,
the millennial-leaning network needs to be looked at separately. The network
also skews more heavily 18-34 women than men and that's the audience many
advertisers are getting guarantees on.
The CW's highest-rated show in the 18-34 demo this season
has been The Vampire Diaries with a
1.3. Next is freshman drama series Arrow,
averaging a 1.0 in the demo, while another freshman drama Beauty and the
Beast is averaging a 0.7. Gossip Girl and 90210 are averaging a 0.6 in the
demo, Hart of Dixie is at a 0.5 and the recently cancelled drama Emily
Owens, M.D. has averaged a 0.4, with veteran drama Nikita at a 0.3.
Emily Owens, M.D. is averaging a whopping median
age of 52, making it practically parental for the millennial-targeting CW. Even
its new hit series Arrow has a median age of 46, while Beauty and the
Beast and Nikita
have median age audiences of 44. There was a time when none of the shows
on The CW or its predecessors The WB and UPN had median age audiences over 40.
This season, Arrow on The CW has a larger live-plus-same-day
rating among 25-54 viewers (1.5) than for 18-34 viewers, and Beauty and the
Beast and Hart of Dixie have similar ratings in both demos.