TV Viewers Are Old -

TV Viewers Are Old


This isn’t surprising, but it turns out that the majority of broadcast TV viewers are “old” by the standards of the upcoming “Survivor: Old vs. Young”:

Ten years ago, the audiences of the five broadcast networks were very different from each other, the study says. The median age — the age at which half the audience is older and half younger — for the now defunct WB was under 30. For CBS, the age in 2000 was in the low 50s. Fox, in those days, was in the mid-30s with shows like “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Party of Five.” Today, the median age of viewers of all networks except the CW is over 45.

This trend is accelerated by the fact that there haven’t been many new hits recently, and the viewing audience gets older as a show does.

However, according to the study, the oldest-skewing drama on broadcast TV is not a veteran hit but a new show, The Good Wife, whose median age is 58. People often assume that an older audience is interchangeable with an un-hip or un-challenging show, which is unfair (it’s not true of movies, where art-house fare often attracts an older audience). The Good Wife isn’t an un-challenging show, but it happens to possess a lot of traits that make it hard to attract young viewers: an “old” (by Survivor standards, not real standards) cast, a minimum of action, a courtroom setting, ripped-from-the-headlines plots.

The youngest-skewing shows, as you might expect, tend to be animated shows like Family Guy, which attract a lot of people who are theoretically too young to watch — prime-time cartoons always have a substantial number of children watching — and where, since the characters never age, they don’t have the “aging hit” factor quite as much.

The other thing the study found is that alternative methods of viewing, like the internet and DVR, are popular among the young, but somewhat less popular among the very young. The demographic sweet spot for this type of viewing is the 25-34 age group: people who are young enough to embrace the technology, but old enough to have a limited amount of free time. People who have a lot of time on their hands are more likely to watch “live,” while someone who has a job and has just had a kid might want to record a show and watch it when some extra time presents itself.

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TV Viewers Are Old

  1. I haven't watched TV in years, and I'm in my 60s.

    Ridiculous shows, loud stupid commercials, everything geared to a grade 4 level…thank you, no.

    • The downside of being better than everyone else is that people tend to assume you're pretentious.

      • The upside is that you remain better than everyone else.

        • Not watching television doesn't make you better than anyone. It makes you a person who doesn't watch television.

    • While it's true that there is an inordinate amount of crap on television these days, there are also some excellent shows as well. If you take the attitude that all TV is junk, then you miss the gems that are out there.

      • One can only stand so many wildlife shows.

        • Same here: I haven't watched tv in years, and I'm in my late 50s. Can't stand the commercials, really can't stand them. And the shows? Meh. Let's say that my computer has become my tv.

          • The tragedy of the online era is we can no longer impress anyone by saying "I don't own a TV." We can watch lots of TV without ever turning on a set.

          • LOL but we don't watch TV crap on it.

            A breaking news item or a presser…that kind of thing. No shows.

            This is not a tragedy.

        • There's a lot of really great non-wildlife shows out there. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, the Good Wife, etc. I recognize most of it is crap, but you can't write off an entire medium just because most of it is crap. Otherwise, you would have to write off every art form ever.

          • The one thing TV has never been is an art form.

          • Is film an art form? There is more good TV than good film these days.

          • Depends on the films you're watching I guess. I tend to avoid both if they're from Hollywood. The rest of the world is putting out some interesting stuff though.

          • How can you opine that TV is not an art form if you don't watch it?
            If you don't watch TV shows, how can you judge what is good & what isn't – perhaps you're psychic? Sarcasm aside, I'm more than a little tired of listening to people who don't watch TV offering up their opinions on it. If you don't watch television, you have no basis to develop an informed opinion of it.

          • I've seen TV since I was a widdle kid….after half a century, I believe I can tell if it's an art form or not.

            Perhaps you're slower.

          • It must be exhausting to be such a douchebag.

          • Nicely done!

  2. Not really that surprised about the Good Wife. It's a remarkably solid show, but everyone I know who watches it is a little embarrassed by the fact because it seems like the kind of show we would otherwise hate – it's a CBS procedural, it has a novelty premise that seems lame from afar, the lead character starts out as a massive pushover, etc. But the supporting cast really brings it together, and even the Chris Noth plotline has turned out pretty interesting. I don't necessarily think that the show is too good for it's premise (which I believe some critics have more or less said), but that it's just so much better than anyone expects shows like it to be these days.

  3. Dear Mr. Weinman,

    Since I discovered your gem of a blog a few months back, I have become an avid reader but an infrequent commentator. Reading the ignorant comments of a particularly obtuse internet troll, I could not pass up the opportunity to thank you. I really appreciate the thoughtful and intelligent examination you provide of the single most important cultural medium . You have provided insight into both the business mechanics that informs the creative process along side incredible essays on how the choice of single camera or multi-cam informs aspects of a show I had never considered.

    The last six weeks I have had a rare opportunity to catch up on shows I had missed over the last couple of years, Breaking Bad, Veronica Mars, Community (I've watched it 3 times now!),and (because of your blog) Party Down, It's Always Sunny in Philly, and Freaks and Geeks. You're blog has given me a deeper appreciation of each show, and made my Great TV Catch-Up that much more enjoyable.


    P.S. btw, because of you, I have been preaching to anyone who'd listen that Thursdays starting in September at 8, they should choose the smart show about dumb guys over the dumb show about smart guys.

    • If TV is your 'single-most cultural medium' you've just killed the thread.

      • Hi troll, if your opening inference that those who consume or comment on television are purveyors of crap didn't kill the thread, I'd hardly think pointing out the obvious would. The purpose of a medium is to transmit culture. Neither of us needs to pass a value judgement on the content of a medium to determine how effective it is as a medium. Television transmits more culture (good culture and bad culture) then film, music, print, and theater combined, whether you like it or not.

        Television is such a significant cultural medium that even the non-viewer feels the physiological need to position their sense of self-worth in relation to television.

        • Hi Junk…hey if it's a 'significant cultural event' for you…and you judge your 'sense of self-worth' by how much TV crap you watch…carry on.

          Just don't claim it is to others.

  4. The quality of television talent and production has been outpaced by technological advances.

    • How? Please explain.