ABC, NBC Target Boomers With Nostalgic Programming

Once again, TV is targeting baby boomers with nostalgia shows about their coming-of-age decade, the 1960s, thanks mostly to the cult hit status achieved by "Mad Men," AMC's early-'60s period piece about advertising hot shots and the melodramatic lives they led.

One of the more interesting things about this latest attempt to draw boomers with programs focused on a time when they were kids and teens or very young adults is the networks presenting them: ABC, with "Pan AM," and NBC, with "The Playboy Club" -- not CBS, which has always been perceived as the geezer network. CBS has also argued for many years that older people actually have most of the money to buy stuff and that advertisers ought to pay more attention to them.

Let's face it, the odds of many 20- and 30-somethings tuning into shows about the '60s, when they weren't even born yet, is remote. A broad generalization I realize, especially considering I tuned in as a kid to lots of shows about times that were, well, before my time, like "The Untouchables" (roaring '20s), "Combat" (WWII) and "Rawhide" (the wild west). For me, it was all about the flying bullets and body counts. (I have somewhat more refined tastes now. Did anyone see that fabulous documentary from Errol Morris, "The Fog of War," about the life and times of Robert S. McNamara?)



Still according to Brad Adgate, the top researcher at Horizon Media, the median age for "Mad Men" viewers is somewhere in the early 50s. In other words, Boomer Central. Millennials could care less (not that there's anything wrong with that).

And now that most boomers are pushing 60, if they aren't already there, the other networks are wising up, too. For decades, the programming and sales focus at both ABC and NBC was slavishly devoted to all things related to 18-to-49 year-olds. Fifty and up? You were dead to them.

But not anymore, for two reasons: the boomer generation, aging or otherwise is too big to ignore, and the network TV business isn't the cash cow it used to be. They'll take money from wherever they can get it, whether it's car companies, denture cleanser advertisers or even their own affiliates, who they are now charging fees for programming instead of paying them to clear it.

But as Adgate points out, the new '60s shows on the networks will have to draw bigger numbers than the two-million-plus viewers tuning into "Mad Men" every week. The network TV audience is shrinking, but not by that much -- and it's still considered the biggest reach vehicle of any medium.

And to get those bigger numbers, the shows need to be well-written, with interesting characters that engage viewers. Only time will tell. The good news: if these 1960s-oriented shows flop, like most new shows do, the boomers will still be around, eager to see what else ABC and NBC have in store for them.

1 comment about "ABC, NBC Target Boomers With Nostalgic Programming".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Chris Conderino from CC Media and Marketing, September 2, 2011 at 5:41 p.m.

    Been in the biz a long time and I know the ratings game, and I know better than to fall for the "survey of one" BUT, I'm a proud Boomer with 3 Millenials in my home and they are totally intrigued and immersed in the 60's culture. They are always asking about that time; wishing they were born back then and most of all listening to our music. My 19 year old is on a steady diet of Ray Charles, BB King and Jimi Hendrix. My daughter's roommate was impressed with my familiarity with the artists on the posters in her room, thinking I was cool to appreciate HER music (L Zepplin, Blind Faith and Jethro Tull!!). Boy did I set her straight ... she needed it! And my 23 year old son hasn't missed an episode of Mad Men.
    I'm in a world of Boomers or "wanna be's" and expect good things from well-produced, nostalgic programs. Good luck ABC and NBC.

Next story loading loading..