Frank: Declines in Young Males Will Continue

MTV Networks research chief Betsy Frank said declines in broadcast ratings and defections among young men "are not aberrations, but rather glimpses of the future that will likely continue and accelerate."

Viewers born since the mid-1970s are accustomed to alternate technologies like video games, cable and the Internet, Frank said Wednesday as she hosted a discussion on TV programming trends with MTV Networks executives, Daily Show host Jon Stewart, Initiative Media’s research chief Stacey Lynn Koerner and author Neil Gabler.

Frank also said young men are disenchanted with broadcast programs and scheduling. And those habits are beginning to influence their older cohorts.

Citing to Nielsen data from November, she said the six broadcast networks saw declines among viewers 12 to 34 years old, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 compared to the previous two years. In contrast, cable’s audience was up in all three groups.

"The broadcasters may be looking to Nielsen to explain their declining numbers, but this season, those expectations alone explain a lot," said Frank.

The panel also discussed the success of reality shows. Programs like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The Joe Schmo Show and Newlyweds have been some of cable’s biggest hits this year. Expect the reality wave to continue on broadcast and cable, said MTV and VH1 programming chief Brian Graden. "Reality is just one more way to capture human emotion."

This fall, broadcasters held back reality programming in favor of more scripted fare and ratings suffered. That will change early next year, when Survivor, American Idol and The Bachelorette return with new installments, along with original entries like NBC’s The Apprentice. Says Franks, "As soon as broadcast brings back reality, which they closeted during last’s springs upfront, we’ll see the return of many of those young viewers."