Finding Young Audiences For Legacy TV Networks: The Pull Of Streaming Platforms

CBS is still making the case that programming size matters -- in linear TV and streaming.

But does this mean altering the types of programming genres -- to get younger viewers -- especially for streaming?

CBS currently has eight prime-time shows that get more than 10 million viewers each -- which is much more than any other network.

This list includes “NCIS” (11.7 million); “Ghosts” (11.6 million); “FBI” (11.4 million); “Blue Bloods” (11.3 million); “Young Sheldon” (10.8 million); “The Equalizer” (10.4 million); “Fire Country” (10.3 million); and “60 Minutes” (10.0 million).

Results come from Nielsen live program-plus-35 days of viewing on CBS Television Network, Paramount+ and CBS TVE ( app) and are available to watch on the Network and streamed live and on demand.



Considering the ongoing concerns over reach on the part of TV advertisers, you can understand why this still matters.

It's no surprise that these shows are down from years ago, with the median age still rising for those shows -- 60-plus years and older.

But all TV networks then talk up that when those same prime-time shows move to their streaming platforms, they get younger -- for example, in the 40- to-45-year-old range. 

Going forward, then, as streaming becomes more important in the distribution mix, one wonders what kind of programming will make up linear TV programming in future years.

For its part, NBCUniversal -- as well as other networks -- sees linear TV networks as a launch pad of sorts, one where advertisers can still use legacy prime time for more “brand” wide marketing. And when those shows move to streaming, they can be used by marketers for more younger, niche audience targeting.

A greater overall percentage of viewing of TV shows that start on legacy TV networks and then move to streaming will be for younger viewers.

So does the initial TV production of series change to something else -- shifting away from criminal procedural shows, medical  and emergency dramas?

Maybe all this won't be to target, say, younger Gen Z viewers. Maybe just those around 35 to 45 years old.

For CBS and other older-skewing TV networks, perhaps help is on the way. Maybe there is something these networks can count on as part of those ever bigger legacy TV-media companies.

Aren't CBS and MTV and VH1 all part of the same company? Go figure.

5 comments about "Finding Young Audiences For Legacy TV Networks: The Pull Of Streaming Platforms".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 8, 2023 at 11:55 a.m.

    Don't count on it long term,Wayne.

    While it was true that younger viewers, especially in affluent households, led the charge into streaming---as the same peole did with TV in 1950 and with almost any new medium---that was years ago. Today, with about 80% of U.S. households streaming and many older, heavy using, viewers migrating from "linear TV to streaming, the likeliehood of the TV networks garnering significant numbers of younger viewers via their streaming services is negligable.

    Yes, for a while, this will be true----but only to a point as one thing hasn't changed with streaming. Young adults are generally much less frequent consumers of TV fare whether it is attainable via streaming or the"legacy way". In other words  for every oldster who cuts the cord and becomes a streamer you will get up to three times more viewing time than for a young person who streams. So as the numbers of oldsters grows, while streaming is already at saturation point for milennials, it follows that the audience profile of streaming platforms---especially the FAST/AVOD services ----will begin to approximate what we now see in linear.  This is most likely for services that include---as they must--huge doses of linearTV fare in their streaming libraries.

  2. Robert Rose from AIM Tell-A-Vision, March 8, 2023 at 6:14 p.m.

    This is purely anecdotal but perhaps worth considering. When we launched Raw Travel in 2013, I was very surprised by the success the show had among young non-traditional broadcast TV demos like 18-34. Even on older-skewing affiliates like CBS, in fact, especially so. This was a hint early on, that the much-ballyhooed concept that young viewers had already fled linear tv, and especially broadcast TV, was not necessarily true. Fast forward ten seasons, and again, this is anecdotal, but I'm always surprised by the age groups of viewers who recognize me from the show... in the streets, at the airports, at a restaurant, etc. A good 25-30% of them, could be classified as Gen Z or Gen Y. Not one of them saw me on social media. Not one. All recognized me from the TV show... a weekend, 1/2 hour TV show on broadcast TV in fringe dayparts. If networks will simply not abandon young viewers, they will and do watch linear TV. 

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 8, 2023 at 8:17 p.m.

    Robert, no one should stereotype all members of a particular sex or age group as there are always exceptions. For example, even though millennials are way below older  adults in terms of their inclination to watch TV about 15% of TV' s very heaviest 18+ viewers---that first "quintile" that accounts for 50-55% of all viewing----are  adults aged 18-34.

    However, in aggregte the younger set simply hasn't got the time to consume tons of TV content---especially in the mornings, daytime hours and early evenings when much TV  usage is generated. Even in prime time ---which they watch more frequently---they are more likley to be away from home on a given evening than adults in their 50s, 60s, and beyond. Also, young viewers tend to be notoriously fickle. While they often are the first to discover some fad---like  a new genre of TV fare or a new source like Netflix was some years back--- they are also the first to get bored and move on to the next "in" thing. As a result, attempting to woo younger audiences into an every night viewing habit---which is what it takes to gererate average minute rating success---- have often proved futile. I believe that this axiom---even allowing for a few exceptions-----will apply for streaming as well.

  4. Ben B from Retired replied, March 8, 2023 at 9:24 p.m.

    I like Raw Travel I watched it more this past year largely Apr to Aug most weekends when WXMI Fox17 in West Michigan aired it at 12PM Sat it also comes on at 4AM early Sat. Going to pitch any new shows for the weekend now that Raw Travel is ending after this season Robert? Glad to see that Raw Travel will live on in repeats until 2025.

  5. Ben B from Retired, March 8, 2023 at 10:03 p.m.

    I like to watch TV on linear I'm old school that way even know I'm not that old in my 40s as I was an 80s & 90s kid growing up. I should be into streaming but I'm not even if I'll miss some shows I'm ok with that. Young adults like to watch both linear & streaming they'll watch live if they really like a show like Ghost as fans of IZombie followed the actress that is on Ghost why it is doing so well I watch Ghost from time to time if there isn't anything on it isn't must-see TV for me.

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