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.