TV Audience Aging, Cable Nets Numbers Rise Fastest

The median age of the U.S. TV viewer is rising faster than the median age of the average American.

The median TV age for the 2013-2014 season is now 44.4 years, up 6.5% -- or 3.5 years higher than it was during the 2009-2010 TV season, when it was 41.9.

In 2014, the estimated U.S. population median age was 37.6 -- up 1%, or 0.4 years from the 37.2 years that the 2010 U.S. Census shows. This was 5% higher -- or 1.9 years -- from 35.3 in the 2000 Census.

According to MoffettNathanson Research, who provided the study: “We think the shift in demographic viewing behavior is caused by a combination of factors ranging from lower penetration rates of under 25 year old households to increasing use of time-shifting technologies in most under 55 year old households.”

For the four big English-language broadcast networks, the weighted average age of TV viewers grew 7% to 53.9 from 50.3; for the cable networks, it increased 8% from 37.1 to 40.

Among the big broadcast networks, Fox is still the youngest, at 47.8 years -- up 7% -- in the ratings weighted average age. At the other end of the spectrum, CBS is now at 58.7 years up 6%. ABC and NBC, however, are gaining on CBS -- now with ABC at 56.3 years and NBC 55.9, both up 6% from five years ago.

Oldest cable networks for average viewer age: Fox News, Hallmark, and RFD-TV are now all at 65 years-plus; Fox Business is at 64.9 years; GSN, 63.0 years; Golf Channel, 61.9 years; and CNN, 61.9 years.

Cable networks have aged the most rapidly: BET (8.8 years older); GAC (8.6 years); Mun2 (8.2 years); TVGN (7.9 years); MLB (7.7 years); and Golf Channel (7.1 years).

Some cable networks became younger. Those include FXX, down 6.7 years (it recently transitioned from the Fox Soccer Channel); truTV, 4.1 years younger; AMC, also down 4.1 years.

Interestingly, CNN also became slightly younger -- 1.5 years -- during the 2013-2014 season versus five years ago.

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4 comments about "TV Audience Aging, Cable Nets Numbers Rise Fastest".
  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc , September 4, 2014 at 6:10 p.m.
    The headline for this piece is a tad misleading. We're talking about the broadcast TV networks, who account for less than 30% of the primetime audience, tonnage-wise. Their median ages have been slowly rising for years--- nothing new. But what about the rest of TV's programming----mainly supplied by cable? Shouldn't its median age trend be included in a report like this for comparison? And what about other TV dayparts, which garner, collectively, about 75% of all TV usage? How are they trending? We have got to stop equating the broadcast TV networks' primetime shows with TV as a whole. They represent one segment----a very important one----but not the whole medium.
  2. John Grono from GAP Research , September 5, 2014 at 5:16 p.m.
    Ed, part of the rise in TV's median age is that the median age of the population is also rising. For longitudinal analysis and comparisons I like to index the medium's median to the population's median so that they are comparable.
  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc , September 5, 2014 at 7:23 p.m.
    I agree, John, but my basic point is that broadcast network TV prime is merely one part---actually a rather small part ----of the average person's total TV consumption. As a rough estimate, it accounts for perhaps 12-14% of the time we spend watching TV. The rest goes to other channels in prime and the vast majority of total viewing is outside of prime entirely. So it's not fair to say that TV's average minute audience is aging----based only on the broadcast networks' performance. Let's see the overall numbers for all channels and all dayparts----or change the headline.
  4. John Grono from GAP Research , September 5, 2014 at 8:14 p.m.
    Agreed and understood Ed. Mine was more of a general comment that people say ... oh look, the median age for (insert medium here) is increasing so it's a less relevant medium. Well guess what people, as a population our median age is increasing!