MBPT Spotlight: Fox Off To Slow Start, But Still Offers Marketers Millennials At a Cost Lower Than Sports Telecasts

Fox is not off to a good start this season. Through the first five weeks, the network is down about 15% in viewers compared to the same period last season—averaging 4.9 million per night for its regularly scheduled live-plus-same-day programming. Its adult 18-49 demo rating is down a similar 15% to a 1.8. And those are the largest percentage declines compared to last season among the Big Five English-language broadcast networks.

In fact, Fox is the only one of those five broadcast networks that is down in every male and female age demo, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

However, there is one area of viewership where Fox is holding its own—millennial males, where new drama series Gotham and most of its Sunday “Fun Day” block is performing well in drawing that hard-to-reach demo.

Overall among males 12-34 (many researchers identify millennials as adults 15-34), Fox is averaging a 1.47 rating, compared to a 1.54 last season. However, in its Sunday block, which airs head-to-head with NBC’s Sunday Night Football, it is averaging a 2.8 in the demo, and a 3.4 if you eliminate freshman scripted comedy Mulaney from the mix.

Fox’s Sunday animation series have always performed well among the younger male demos, but this season the network decided to move second-year scripted comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine into the block along with new series Mulaney. Overall, it continues to be a solid alternative for marketers who don’t want to spend the bigger bucks it takes to buy ad time in NBC’s SNF.

NBC’s SNF is averaging a 7.7 rating in the male 12-34 demo, but a 30-second commercial in the game’s telecast is running advertisers about $627,000, according to a recent Ad Age polling of media agency buyers. For that same total, a marketer could buy one 30-second spot in all four of Fox’s 8 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday block comedy shows—The Simpsons ($190,000), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (150,000), Family Guy ($160,000) and Mulaney ($127,000)—according to the Ad Age data.

Individually, Family Guy, which is averaging a 4.1 among males 12-34, is the most-watched broadcast primetime non-sports show in the demo. The Simpsons is next, averaging a 3.6. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is fourth, averaging a 2.5, while Mulaney is way down, averaging just a 0.95.

CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory is the third-most-watched scripted show among males 12-34 with a 2.9 rating in the demo and Fox Monday drama Gotham is fifth, averaging a 2.1. Other popular series among the demo are ABC comedy Modern Family with a 2.0 rating, NBC’s The Voice with a 1.9, The CW’s new superhero series The Flash (1.7), CBS freshman drama Scorpion (1.6), and Fox’s 7:30 p.m. Sunday animation series Bob’s Burgers (1.5). ABC Sunday drama Once Upon a Time is also averaging a 1.5 in the demo, followed by NBC drama The Blacklist (1.4), ABC freshman comedy Black-ish (1.3), CBS reality series Survivor (1.3), ABC sitcom The Goldbergs (1.2), CBS drama NCIS (1.2), ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1.2), Fox drama Sleepy Hollow (1.1), ABC freshman drama How to Get Away With Murder (1.1) and CBS freshman drama NCIS: New Orleans (1.1).

The least-watched primetime series by males 12-34 is The CW drama Reign, which averages only a 0.2 in the demo. The CW’s freshman drama Jane the Virgin averages a 0.3 in the male demo, while NBC’s two freshman comedies Bad Judge and A to Z both are averaging a 0.4 in the demo.

There are a handful of series that on first glance would appear to be able to draw strong millennial male audiences but don’t. Most of those are because the series air on Friday night when many in the young male demo are out.

CBS drama Blue Bloods, which is bringing in 11 million total viewers on Friday night at 10 p.m. is averaging only a 0.5 among males 12-34. Two NBC Friday night sci-fi drama, Grimm and freshman series Constantine, are both averaging just a 0.7.

With so much being written about the growing importance of millennials to marketers, should the broadcast networks not be trying to target them more with their programming?

Billie Gold, VP, director of buying/programming research at media agency Carat believes that’s hard for the broadcast networks to do because their mission is to reach a broad and all-encompassing audience and not to target anyone specific. At least that’s the mission of—ABC, NBC and CBS.

“The broadcast networks have to try to keep all demos in their broad audience happy,” Gold says. “If they start programming too young, they will offend their older audiences and there are still more old people watching broadcast television than younger.”

Gold says even The CW, which for many years was targeting primarily millennial women, has been adding more male-skewing shows and even aging up its audience. It’s just hard for a broadcast network to stay in business if it targets one particular demo.

Gold says the broadcast networks have been aging some of their series down but in order for them to be successful they still have to have some broad appeal. She used the new CBS drama Scorpion as an example. The series has a younger cast and high-tech, high-octane story lines, but it still has the feel of a CBS procedural drama that can be enjoyed by older viewers.

Still, Scorpion was highly promoted at this year’s Comic Con and Gold says, “I can’t remember when a CBS show got such a promotional effort there where the attendees are mainly millennials.”

Gold says it is also harder to reach millennial men on broadcast TV than it is millennial women, and that’s why series in the Fox Sunday block are popular among marketers wanting to reach young men.

“To reach millennial males on NBC Sunday Night Football can be very expensive, because you have to pay for the large concentration of older viewers,” Gold says. “But you can reach a high concentration of younger males on the Fox Sunday shows or on shows like Gotham and The Flash at a fraction of the cost.”