They say youth is wasted on the young. But in the
not-too-distant future, nearly half of TV may be wasted on the old.
With an army of baby boomers marching into their golden
years and toward their couches, flat screens and remotes, an increasingly small
proportion of TV viewers will be in the young demos that matter to advertisers.
In a new research report, analyst Todd Juenger of Sanford C.
Bernstein said that people 50 years and older will represent 34% of the U.S.
population in 2015, up from 32% in 2011. And in 2015, those 50-pluses will
represent 49% of all TV viewing hours, up from 43% in 2011.
That means the share of viewers in the 18-34 and 18-49 age
groups—the "dollar demos" for ad sales—are shrinking. Juenger says viewers in
the younger age groups have been decreasing their TV consumption by about 2%
per year, while older viewers increase theirs.
"TV industry observers have watched this trend perpetuate
for years at the broadcast networks, wondering when prices would finally reach
a breaking point where marketers would move their dollars elsewhere," Juenger
said in his report. "It hasn't happened, because there has been no substitute
that could replace TV advertising for marketers. Online video advertising may
According to Juenger, "the growing CPMs of TV advertising
against young demos, combined with the increasing availability and
measurability of online video advertising which reaches young demos,
accelerates the timeline—most acutely for networks targeting young viewers
Good News and Bad News
Juenger added that the trend is "a structural good guy in
the short run." In the short term, the scarcity of younger viewers means higher
ad prices on a cost-per-thousand viewers (CPM) basis for the networks that
deliver them. There is also the potential that marketers could embrace 50-plus
But over the longer term, the trend is a bad guy. Rising
CPMs for younger viewers will push CPMs up and eventually drive marketers to
look for alternatives, including online advertising.
"TV networks have no obvious solution to deal with this,"
Juenger said. "They can choose to try to capture more online dollars for
themselves, but the more they encourage their viewers to eschew traditional TV,
the more they hasten the demise of their core business -- especially if it
ultimately enables cord-cutting."
That's why TV networks are racing to get TV Everywhere up
and running. "It holds the promise of satisfying the growing consumer desire to
watch content anywhere, anytime on any device, while holding onto affiliate
fees," Juenger said. "But the longer it takes the [multichannel programming
video distributors] and networks to bring forth workable TV Everywhere
solutions, the more opportunity for interlopers to grab audiences and ad
dollars, and potentially disintegrate the pay-TV system beyond repair."
Same Old Story
The big broadcast networks have been looking for ways to
start monetizing their older viewers. NBC has done research on what it calls
Alpha Boomers -- consumers in the 55- 64 year-old demo.
David Poltrack, chief research officer at CBS, the top-rated
network but also the one with the oldest-skewing viewers, has trotted out
research indicating that while a program like Blue Bloods has the
highest median age of continuing shows on broadcast TV at 62.5, its audience
also has a high concentration of heavy soft drink users, making it a
counterintuitive buy for a soft-drink marketer -- especially given a relatively
CBS series The Good Wife, 60 Minutes, The
Mentalist and NCIS all have median ages above 60, as do ABC's Dancing
With the Stars and Body of Proof. CBS' youngest-skewing continuing
show is How I Met Your Mother, with a median age of 47.2. The
youngest-skewing series on all of the broadcast networks is Family Guy
on Fox, with a median age of 30.6. The CW's Gossip Girl has a median age
Poltrack said he is seeing an increased
correlation between commercial prices and delivery of viewers 35-64 years old.
But by and large the media buying community has stuck with 18-49 and 25-54 as the
audiences they are willing to pay more to reach.