Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, August 16, 2021

It’s been the mass medium of choice for the past half-century-plus. So it’s only appropriate that TV is now showing its age, demographically:

The median age for viewers at [CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox] is now 51. The broadcasters’ audience has aged at twice the rate of the general population during the past two decades, according to a new report. It’s a quiet trend with a real impact on the way they do business.

“It should be a concern, but it doesn’t seem to be a concern at the moment,” said Steve Sternberg, who wrote the report for Baseline Inc., an information source for the film and TV industries that is owned by The New York Times Co. “You don’t want to have CBS, ABC and NBC all having median ages in their mid-50s.”

The risk in having a rapidly aging audience is the networks becoming less relevant to advertisers, the backbone of their business. Increasingly, that’s a way of thinking that itself is getting old…

A young audience has always been the holy grail for networks, but that’s changing, said Alan Wurtzel, research chief at NBC. Not only are more older viewers available, advertisers are starting to recognize that they spend money and are receptive to their messages.

“But that’s changing” has been the supposed trend for the past couple of decades now. When the chips are down, though, advertisers still skew their pitches to the younger end of the spectrum. The fact is, there’s a cachet in tailoring marketing messages to young adults, because it appeals to older demos and their aspirations to identify themselves as “still young” or “not that old”. That’s not going to change — in fact, I’ve argued that it’s a societal trend that’s only going to get more pronounced.

That doesn’t mean that television will be part of that persistent process. The aging of the boob tube audience is a testament to how fragmented the media landscape has become, especially to youngsters who never experienced a world of TV as the primary media outlet. Without that force-of-habit viewership, we are indeed seeing a fundamental shift in media consumption:

Does TV begin a decade-long transformation, similar to what radio went through in the 1950s, with various shows and other programming migrating online, leaving behind… What? Infomercials and pharmaceutical ads on the boob tube, branding it as something that only “old people” watch?

I think that question, which I asked only a little over a year ago, has been answered by these numbers. Welcome to the end of the Television Age.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/16/2010 11:35pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society, TV
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