ABC sitcom Modern Family this season to date is the regularly scheduled broadcast primetime series whose audience has the highest median income—$74,500. At the opposite end of the spectrum is The CW’s Jane the Virgin with a median income of $38,100.
The list, using Nielsen data and compiled annually this time of year by media agency Carat, always offers surprises—including a hint as to why networks keep some lower-rated series on the air.
While it’s at the top of the list of highest income viewers, Modern Family’s median income per viewer dropped this year by about 5% from last season’s $78,500. In second place among the series with the highest median income audiences is Fox sitcom New Girl with a median income of $70,500. Finishing third is ABC second-year comedy The Goldbergs at $70,100. New Girl, like Modern Family, took a drop in its audience median income, also falling about 5% from $74,100. The Goldbergs is one of the few primetime series that grew its median income audience. This season it is up by more than 5% from last season’s $66,100.
Part of the reason for The Goldbergs increase is a new night and time period, leading out of another sitcom The Middle. Last season, it led out of drama Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which has a younger and more male audience. While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a median income audience of $65,500, which is comparable to The Middle’s $66,700 this season, many of the S.H.I.E.L.D. viewers left rather than sticking around to watch The Goldbergs.
While Modern Family is one of broadcast primetime’s most watched series, averaging 10.2 million viewers and a 3.5 18-49 demo rating, New Girl is one of the least watched, averaging 2.7 million viewers and a 1.4 demo rating. The Goldbergs sits in between, averaging 7.1 million viewers and a 2.3 demo rating.
Other lower-rated series with higher-income viewers include NBC drama Parenthood and sitcom About aBoy, Fox sitcoms The Mindy Project and Brooklyn Nine-Nine and competition series MasterChefJunior.
The Mindy Project has the fifth-highest median income audience at $67,300, but its viewership is just 2.4 million and its 18-49 rating is 1.1. Parenthood has a median-age income audience of $62,600, but it averages just 4.1 million viewers and a 1.2 18-49 demo rating. About a Boy has a median income of $59,800, with viewership of 4.2 million and a demo rating of 1.2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s audience median income is $56,900 and it averages 4.1 million and a 2.0 in the demo. MasterChef Junior has a median income of $54,200 with viewership of 4.6 million and a demo rating of 1.7.
Marketers who want to reach some upscale consumers at low CPMs should be checking out the shows with lower ratings with high median-income audiences.
Rounding out the Top 10 primetime series beyond Modern Family, New Girl and The Goldbergs as the Top 3 and The Mindy Project at 5, are: (4) ABC’s Saturday Night Football (median-age audience income of $67,700); (6) ABC sitcom The Middle ($66,700); (7) ABC freshman sitcom Black-ish ($65,600); (8) NBC Sunday Night Football ($64,800); (9) CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory ($63,500); and (10) NBC drama TheBlacklist and freshman sitcom Marry Me (whose audiences each average $63,300).
Some of the most watched series have median-age income audiences in the middle of the pack or lower. CBS drama NCIS, the most watched show on television, averaging 17.6 million viewers and a solid 2.6 18-49 demo rating, has a median income of $54,000. NBC’s singing competition The Voice on Mondays averages 12.1 million and a 3.5 in the demo and has a median income audience of $62,100.
Two of the oldest skewing series on broadcast TV, CBS news magazine 60 Minutes and drama series The Good Wife, have median income audiences of $63,200 and $62,200, placing them just outside the Top 10. 60 Minutes is averaging 13.7 million viewers and a 2.2 18-49 demo rating, but its median-age audience is 63, the same as for The Good Wife, which is averaging 10.6 million viewers and a 1.4 in the demo.
The highest-ranked CW series is America’s Next Top Model with a median income audience of $53,700. Close behind is freshman drama The Flash with a median income of $51,000.
While younger skewing series tend to have audiences that have lower median incomes, that’s not always the case. On Fox, New Girl with a median age of 38 has a median income audience of $70,500, second highest in broadcast primetime, while The Mindy Project’s median age is 39 and it has a median audience income of $67,300.
Also on Fox, Family Guy has a median age audience of 33 but that audience’s median income is $50,700, more than several primetime series. The Simpsons on Fox also has a median-age audience of 36 with a median income of $51,200.
How do this year’s freshman series stack up in terms of median income audiences? Two series on ABC that were ranked fourth and fifth among the new shows this season—Selfie and Manhattan Love Story—have already been canceled. Both did have paltry ratings, but Manhattan Love Story had a median income audience of $62,000, which would put it in the Top 20, while Selfie had a median income of $60,000. Also canceled was NBC freshman sitcom A to Z which had a median income of $57,700 and was in the Top 10 among new series.
The freshman series with the highest median income audience is ABC sitcom Black-ish at $65,600, followed by NBC comedy Marry Me ($63,300), CBS drama Madam Secretary ($62,800), CBS drama Scorpion ($58,800), CBS comedy The McCarthys ($56,000), Fox drama Gotham ($55,900), ABC sitcom Cristela ($55,000) and ABC drama How to Get Away With Murder ($54,700). Of those series, Gotham skews youngest at 46, followed by Black-ish at 50. Madam Secretary skews oldest at 63.
The most-watched freshman series, CBS drama NCIS: New Orleans, which is averaging 16.3 million viewers and a 2.3 18-49 demo rating, has a median income audience of $52,200. That’s one of the lowest median incomes among the new series, and it skews among the oldest at 62.