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'Maury' Leads Syndication's Youth Movement

Say what you will about NBCUniversal’s conflict talk show, Maury—from its “shocking secrets revealed!” to its “out-of-control teenagers”—but it’s currently first-run syndication's youngest-skewing talk show at a median age of 48.5, according to Nielsen Media Research; it’s also often the first-run talk leader among young women.

And all that doesn’t happen by accident— especially when your host, Maury Povich, is 73. “I find that younger viewers have a shorter attention span,” says Paul Faulhaber, executive producer of Maury as well as NBCU’s newest talker, Trisha. “So what we like to do is produce mini-soap operas that you can get into really fast and really deeply. Younger viewers get bored quickly, and they don’t like to be bored.”

Some advertisers might shun Maury and its siblings—Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos and Trisha, starring British tabloid talker Trisha Goddard— due to the shows’ content. But others—especially direct-response advertisers— embrace the genre.

“There are all different types of marketers out there,” says one syndication insider. “Some of these shows not only skew younger, but they can also be lower-priced. A lot of advertisers are just looking to buy based on price, and that helps them.”

In fact, all of syndication’s so-called conflict talk shows skew young, with Wilkos averaging a median age of 49.4, Debmar-Mercury’s Jeremy Kyle a 49.9, Springer a 50.4 and Trisha a 51.4.

First-run syndication’s youngest-skewing shows also are some of its newest, with CBS Television Distribution’s sophomore dating show, Excused, coming in youngest at 38.9, almost four years younger than its nearest competitor, Twentieth’s rookie radio half-hour, Dish Nation, at 43.7. Warner Bros.’ TMZ, which TV stations often pair with Dish Nation, is third at 46.1.

What all those shows have in common is a sense of authenticity. People say what they think (whether it gets bleeped or not), and there’s not a lot of spit and polish to the programs.

“We’re certainly not MTV—we’re not so hip—but we’re funny and relevant,” says Stephen Brown, Twentieth executive VP of programming, speaking to Dish Nation’s blend of rapid-fire radio talk, pop culture and comedy. “Having younger viewers ultimately ensures a longer life, and we want this show to be around for a long time.”

Among the non-conflict talk shows, Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams is the youngest at 49.2, while CTD’s talk leader Dr. Phil trends older at 58.9, just a tad older than Disney-ABC’s Live! With Kelly and Michael at 58.7. Disney-ABC’s rookie Katie skews oldest of any talker, at 60.7.

That puts Katie in league with some of syndication’s oldest-skewing shows: CTD’s Judge Judy at a median age of 60.4 and Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire at 61.4. CTD’s Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, two of syndication’s highest-rated shows in households, are also its oldest-skewing at 64.3 and 65-plus, respectively.

Of course, it’s not necessarily bad to be old. While advertisers buy based on a target demographic, which in daytime is typically women 25-54, they don’t mind if they get lots of other viewers as part of the deal.

And many advertisers seek to target older consumers: “If you are a pharmaceutical or an automotive company, older-skewing shows are important,” says Mitch Burg, president of the Syndicated Network Television Association. “Every marketer has a different objective.”

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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.