The broadcast primetime TV audience has aged significantly over the past
five seasons, according to a new study by media buyer MAGNA Global USA based on
Nielsen Media Research ratings data.
The median age across the six broadcast networks for the just ended (2001-02)
season was 44.9 years. That's up almost three years compared with the 1997-98
NBC and ABC have aged the most, both up about five years on average from
five seasons ago. The median age of the NBC audience now stands at 45.9,
while it's 46 for ABC.
The CBS audience, in contrast, has gotten younger, by one-and-a-half years
The Fox audience has aged by almost three years to 36, while United Paramount Network has aged by
about half a year to 34.2.
The WB Television Network's median age has climbed seven years to 31.2. The bottom line, concluded
MAGNA Global's Steve Sternberg, who authored the report, is that "the closer
median ages have resulted in a more competitive network landscape."
Five seasons ago, CBS had a median age about 12 years older than both NBC and
ABC. That's been reduced by half. As a result, CBS has narrowed the gap in the
battle for adults 18 through 49 with NBC, while edging past Fox and ABC in that
demo, Sternberg said. At the same time, CBS' 50-plus dominance has diminished.
Five years ago, Sternberg said, the gap between the No. 1 and No. 4 networks
among adults 18 through 49 was 72 percent. This season, it was just 31 percent,
he said. Among adults 18 through 34, the comparable figures are 133 percent and 57