Is This Streaming Stuff Getting Old, Or Is It Just Me?

I’m watching “Aquarius” on NBC last night, and it hits me: Why? This is the first time the network has premiered a series, and then made all the future episodes immediately available online to be binged. 

Surely, for an experiment like this, the network has chosen content that will pique the interest of the streaming, millennial millions. It’s that younger bracket who are turning online video into the viewership mode of choice, as I was told repeatedly during the NewFronts, when older-demo-shaming was often a go-to joke,

And so why is it, I wonder, that NBC might think that “Aquarius,” the fictionalized story of a detective’s investigation into Charles Manson and his cult in 1967, will be a good test of how binge viewing affects the network’s bottom line?

The real life Manson cult is a fascinating story. But he’s 80 years old. David Duchovny, the star of “Aquarius,” is 54, and is mainly famous for his starring role in “X-Files,” which had its last episode in 2002.



To me, this doesn’t seem to have the strongest millennial-stroking vibe. I must be wrong. 

The first 15 minutes of “Aquarius” was accompanied by the soundtrack of a local Magic format oldies station, with the tiniest snippets of hits from the Byrds, the Who and Jefferson Airplane. I half expected the first half hour of “Aquarius” was sponsored by E-Z Wider.

I sort of thought we’d done the '60s flashback thing in “Mad Men.”

And by the way, one of the places you can stream "Aquarius" is Hulu, which made news recently by purchasing (for a reported $1 million an episode) the rerun rights to "Seinfeld," starring that spry comedian who is now 61 and whose sitcom left the air in 1998, back when Al Gore was still talking about the fun he had inventing the Internet.

But it’s not just “Aquarius” that's on the streaming golden ager kick. Just the other day, Netflix announced it was renewing the sitcom “Grace and Frankie” a second season, and that one stars Jane Fonda, 77 and Lily Tomlin, 75. They are playing characters newly divorced from their newly out-of-the-closet husbands played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, who are both 74.

If there is another show that deals as bluntly and delightfully with the older demo as that one does, I haven’t seen it. One episode actually centers around the supposed fact that 84% of post-menopausal women experience painful vaginal dryness. Cue the laugh track!

While “Grace and Frankie” has some dry patches of its own, it’s surprisingly ribald, too, and sometimes as raunchy as any double entendre-laden episode of “Two Broke Girls,” though I sure don’t mean to compare the two.

I read some comScore data that says 91% of Internet users 18 to 24 watch online video at least once a month, and 88% of users 25-34 do, too. But you go a little deeper and you discover 84% of adults 55 and older, do too. They don’t watch as many, this data says, but even that number has skyrocketed.

Nielsen’s Total Audience Report Q4 says adults 50 to 64 watched 1 hour and 10 minutes of online video in that period, which is not quite the 1 hour and 41 minutes that 18-24s did, or the 1 hour and 52 minutes that viewers 25 to 34 did.

But it’s not nothing, which is what the common perception is--even within “Grace and Frankie,” which has several scenes of old fuddy-duddy bewilderment about how to use a computer that seemed contrived to fit somebody else’s stereotype. 

I have a feeling Netflix knows something about its viewers that might not fit the common demographic stereotype, either.

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