Across the board, networks--including upmarket TV leaders, ABC and NBC--have added more programming with the intent of grabbing upper-income viewers, and as a result, affluent ad dollars for those shows.
For ABC, all its big new dramas--"Big Shots," "Dirty Sexy Money" and "Cashmere Mafia"--have upscale characters in upscale situations. NBC continues to do the same--with shows such as "Lipstick Jungle," another "Sex and the City" look-alike program about three professional Manhattan women.
Even the CW, usually a young-skewing network, feels more posh with the Upper East Side New York-set show "Gossip Girl."
"You are seeing so many shows set in the workplace with powerful executives," says Shari Anne Brill, senior vice president of programming analysis for Carat USA. "Maybe they hope to attract those types of viewers."
"Everybody wants to be [the next] "Sex and the City," says Jordan Breslow, director of broadcast research for Mediacom.
Overall, analysts don't expect much change at the top--with ABC and NBC continuing to lead in both adult 18-49 viewers with incomes of $75,000-plus and $100,000-plus.
All this could explain why NBC is standing pat on its Thursday-night lineup, say media analysts, and not altering its lineup of "My Name is Earl," "The Office," "30 Rock," "Scrubs" and "ER."
"They had such a great reputation for years [in upscale viewers]," said Brill. "NBC still talks about quality. They are talking to the educated viewer."
NBC has taken great pains to note that while some of its shows seem to be under duress, such as "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," the show was grabbing the desired demographic. The net is sticking with the Aaron Sorkin-drama--even at mid-3.0 ratings among 18-49 viewers. But then early this year, ratings dove south, and even those remaining upscale viewers couldn't save it.
For next season, Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment for NBC, now says about NBC's lineup: "We have class; now, we are looking for mass."
In recent years, Fox has moved to grab more well-to-do viewers, especially with "House" and "24." With more high-concept shows--such as Fox's "New Amsterdam," about a 17th-century Dutch soldier who becomes immortal, now living as cop in present-day New York--analysts believe the network will look to grow its upscale niche.
"They have a good chance," says Mediacom's Breslow. "It's scheduled to run before "House" (Tuesdays at 8 p.m.)." Fox's big show, "American Idol," also registers with an upscale audience. But media-agency executives note that the show gets high numbers for almost every viewer group.
CBS has made some forays into grabbing this select segment with "Survivor" and "CSI" in recent years. Now, with some high-concept shows like "Moonlight," about a vampire who is a private investigator, CBS hopes to make more gains. "Viva Laughlin" could be another possible candidate--especially airing after "60 Minutes" at 8 p.m. on Sunday night. "60 Minutes" is a perennial strong performer of upscale viewers.
CW has recently received major buzz among media buyers for its shows, including "Gossip Girl," "Reaper" and "Aliens in America."
Still, not every network can be all things to all viewers. For example, CBS still prides itself on appealing to all TV viewers and those in the 25-54 demographic. "Every network has their own niche," says Breslow. "Everyone can't be clamoring for upscale viewers."