Broadcast Viewers Are Older, Advertisers Must Adjust Demo Expectation

The three major broadcast networks continue to see a rising median age of their prime-time viewers -- now 57 years old -- all of which could be an issue for TV advertisers.

Media Dynamics, a media consulting company, says this is 19 years older than the median age of the total U.S. population -- 38 years old. For ABC, CBS, and NBC, the average prime-time share of audience is 25%.

In 1990 -- when those three networks had an 63% average share of audience -- the median age of broadcast prime-time viewers for ABC, CBS, and NBC was 41. Back then, the median age of the U.S. population was 33, notes Media Dynamics

Thirty years before that — in 1960 — the networks' median age of prime-time viewers was 34, while the median age of the U.S. population was 30. In 1960, those networks had a 92% share of the TV audience.



Currently, many TV and advertising executives are concerned about how to maintain younger millennials who watch TV less frequently.

Ed Papazian, president of Media Dynamics, states: “The networks might try to turn things around by emulating cable’s much edgier approach to dramas and sitcoms. But it won’t be easy.”

But there is good news — very few advertisers are focused exclusively on the younger 18-34 group. Most brands focus their sales efforts — up to 75% — on those 35 and older.

Advertisers, however, can live with older-skewing major TV networks “providing that advertisers adjust their thinking and pay attention to all of the important segments, not just millennials,” says Papazian.

“You may not be able to rely completely on ABC, CBS, and NBC prime-time shows any more, but it doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their value, either,” he adds.

5 comments about "Broadcast Viewers Are Older, Advertisers Must Adjust Demo Expectation".
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  1. Jon Currie from Currie Communications, Inc., April 7, 2015 at 4:54 p.m.

    It gets "old" hearing these obvious things and yet in the next article, will be something like, "18-49s" the most coveted demographic. Or 19-49s, the most valuable. Marketers will NEVER get over thinking there is some kind of magic in a demographic which was originally created to cater to people like me who are now out of that amazing phenomenal, most catered-to group. And BTW, what exactly is an 18 to 49 year old. Stop and think for a minute how stupid that really is. An 18 year old is likely still in high school with no money to speak of, while a 49 year old is likely at the peak of his/her career and life experience and probably the 18 year old's parent. How can one ever expect to market in the same way to such a broad and impossibly manageable "group"?

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 7, 2015 at 5:23 p.m.

    Agreed, Jon. What most people don't realize is that "demos" like 18-49 or 25-54 are not for targeting but, in reality, reflect an ancient accommodation between buyers and sellers as to what numbers will serve as the basis for GRP guarantees. In other words---to protect the buyer's fannies while making life easier for the sellers. In times past, the networks objected to buyers trying to obtain GRP guarantees for more self-contained breaks like adults 18-24 or people 12-29 on the grounds that Nielsen's sample size was too small to provide "stable" ratings for some shows. So the much broader "conglomerate" demos were agreed to and still remain in force. If the truth be known, everyone who was directly involved was, and still is, happy with this ---- except many brands with more selective constituencies, who are legislated into "corporate buys". Worse, once they start to "trend" their CPMs and/or CPPs using one umbrella buying "demo" advertiser media directors are reluctant to change---even if the realities of the evolving media scene warrant such a move. When you compare the much finer demo slicing and dicing and the even more sophisticated "mindset" segmentation that underlie the positioning strategies and creative executions of many brand ad campaigns with the simplistic ways the same advertisers make their TV time buys one wonders whether the two sets of players even talk to, let alone understand, each other.

  3. Robert Dilworth from DILigent Marketing, April 7, 2015 at 5:31 p.m.

    I would submit that average age is irrelevant and misleading, driven by the fact that older viewers spend more time watching TV. If the average age of a program is 57 and the audience is 10 million, then approximately 5 million viewers are under age 57. That's a lot of viewers to reject purely because they are in the company of many 58+ year olds.

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 7, 2015 at 7:02 p.m.

    Robert, while it is true that older adults watch much more TV than younger ones, this is considerably less so in prime time when most people---even the younger set----are usually home and more available. Also, it is clear that the three major TV netwoks---some individual shows excepted---are watched to a far greater extent by 50+ audiences than is the case for other TV platforms---the CW network, for example, and many cable channels. As a result, if you are a marketer whose products are bought mainly by adults aged 18-34, with the 35-49 group being somewhat important and the 50+ segment less so, it becomes very important to examine the trade-offs between ad costs and demographic audience delivery. That is not to say that advertisers whose campaigns are aimed at people under 50 more so than the older group shouldn't consider ABC/CBS/NBC prime time buys. They should, but only if their total mix of TV buys---on cable, syndication and the CW and Fox, together with the major networks----provides the right degree of exposure for all sectors of their potential customer base.

  5. Jon Currie from Currie Communications, Inc., April 7, 2015 at 7:17 p.m.

    What Ed said. Seriously. Beyond that, though there are other facts that marketers tend to miss and I can (and often do) go on at length about them. The assumption that once you reach a certain age you are incapable of switching brand loyalty, or in fact basing assumptions about today's over 50 based on the over 50 of years back. Buick ads are an example. That couldn't be a Buick because old people like Buicks, and God forbid we continue to sell them to old people, when in fact, that is all who will buy them, so why not run with it? Oh, but young people don't like to see old people or associate themselves with that, etc. Another example Viagra ads. No one in a Viagra ad looks like they need Viagra.

    Truth is, over 50s do control and have most of the bucks in today's world. No one cares to market to them except for meds and financial services. Talk about stereotypes. But they don't care and will continue to pound away reaching for that millenial gold ring--even though there are far fewer millenials than over 50s. Fine, sell Video games to them, but who cares who buys your car? Millenials are not going to buy Lexuses, by and large they can't afford them. But the ads won't give up on that saw. Look the reality is that TV is by and large a medium of people over 50. Why? Because we grew up in that world, before there was an internet and the related technology. Give up on us and you give up on the one who brung ya to the dance. But, you will anyway and we will die off and not care about you either.

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