Boomers keep broadcast TV alive

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The Future. The median audience for programming on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox is now over 60 — much older than what it was just a decade ago. But with TV executives noting the lack of proper tools for universally breaking down how those same shows have a young fanbase when they move to streaming, advertisers may not be properly valuing the universal appeal of broadcast shows. And with the cultural narrative focused on the migration to streaming, broadcast will likely age out with its audience.

In the Primetime of their lives
Broadcast is increasingly for the graying generation.

  • The median viewership age of most broadcast shows is now over 60, including The Voice (64.8), Grey’s Anatomy (64.1), and Young Sheldon (65+, the highest range that Nielsen labels).
  • That’s a major jump from nine years ago, when the median age was mid-40s to early 50s, with Brooklyn Nine-Nine even pulling in viewers with a median age of 39.
  • That shift has led to significant scheduling changes, like ABC moving up The Golden Bachelor (which centers on contestants in their 60s and 70s) from 10pm to 8pm so it could follow Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!
  • It also changes the equation of what scripted shows are greenlit, such as NBC recently rebooting the original incarnation of Law & Order, starring 82-year-old Sam Waterston.

And with the strikes almost jeopardizing the fall TV schedule (filling it with reruns and reality TV), many analysts expect the broadcast audience to age up even more.

But there’s a wrinkle. While broadcast shows bring in an older audience, those same shows attract younger viewership when they hit streamers. Case in point: Abbott Elementary has a median viewership of 60.5 when it airs on ABC but much younger when it streams the next day on Hulu.

It’s not the content that’s older-skewing… it’s the medium.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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