Blue Blood’s star Tom Selleck turns 75 this week — just five years older than the median age of his drama’s audience. Photo: John Paul Filo/CBS ©2019CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Still watching broadcast television? Starting to notice that every second 30-second commercial is aimed at the elderly?

Supper hour newscasts are the worst. Between reports of the latest atrocities from the floor of the U.S. senate there are ads for miracle cures with side effects that could kill you. They generally show images of robust young grandparents cavorting on a beach, buying ice cream or doing yoga. Even on many entertainment shows the commercial breaks are crammed with messages about reverse mortgages, dental implants or, yes, the Stair Master.

The ironically-titled “Ad Age” magazine had a sobering report last fall on the aging of traditional television audiences. The article listed many popular primetime shows with median ages above 60 years old. Tom Selleck’s CBS cop drama Blue Bloods, for example, has a median age of 70. That’s the median age! Selleck, by the way, turns 75 this week, and the actor who plays his father, Winnipeg born Len Cariou is 80, so maybe the cast should stop watching — they’re starting to skew the numbers.

According to Ad Age, which relied on Nielsen for its numbers report last October, other popular shows have a median age a decade-and-a-half past the upper regions of the “money demo” (18-49). They include the rest of CBS’s Friday night slate of Magnum, P.I. (67.2) and Hawaii Five-0 (66.2).

The report pegged CBS as TV’s oldest-skewing network with an overall median age of 63.2 in primetime. Even more recent shows such as FBI (66.3) tilts to retirees. CBS’s only primetime series with a below 60 median age is Survivor (57.3). Even that is well past the 25-54-year-old demo banked on by the CBS ad sales department.

The other networks are not far behind. ABC’s Dancing with the Stars has a median age audience of 66.3 years. ABC’s overall median age is 58.5; NBC is slightly older (59.2) while Fox is still the youngest (52.4) but has been creeping up in recent years.


Barely five years ago, in 2015, the median age audience at the major U.S. broadcasters were as follows: CBS 59, ABC and NBC 54, Fox 49 and the CW 44. With so many streamers now stealing away younger viewers, well, you can see where this is going.

Some of the younger-skewing shows on U.S. broadcasters are still beyond the 18-49-year-old demo, including Fox’s The Masked Singer (49.8 years), Thursday Night Football (51.5) and Empire (51.8), NBC’s Sunday Night Football (50.9) and ABC’s Modern Family (55.2 years). Fox’s Bob’s Burgers (44.9) has the youngest median audience of any Big Four series, with The Simpsons and Family Guy close behind.

1 Comment

  1. Alicia Ottenbreit Reply

    There are still several broadcast tv shows I watch but yes, I don’t actually watch any on actual cable tv. Between CBC Gem, Netflix, Amazon Prime and the recently launched Stack TV (which shows tv series airing on Shaw Media’s channels), I have access to about 80% of the broadcast tv shows I watch. The other 20% I have to find through non-legit means on an android box. Channels which refuse to put their shows on a second window on a streamer or take too long putting their shows on a streamer are really losing out. Many people prefer watching their shows via a streamer because frankly, it’s a b*tch to try and find good feeds of episodes of several shows on an android app. I also don’t subscribe to all these streaming services at once. I keep Netflix and Amazon Prime but switch to a different third streamer every 3 months (Disney+, Apple TV, Crave, Stack TV, Acorn, Britbox). Currently, for instance, I am watching both the new Party of Five and Nurses on Stack TV, and watching Heartland and Anne with an E on CBC Gem.

    I only cancelled my satellite tv subscription about two years ago. I would’ve done it much sooner but in my previous rural location I did not have access to high speed internet. I do not know a single person in my life under the age of 70 who watches tv series live. Most people under that age only seem to keep with cable/satellite for sports coverage. Everyone I know has Amazon Prime and Netflux plus an Android box.

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