MBPT Spotlight: Marketers’ Lucky 13 – Broadcast Shows That Draw More Than 1 Million Millennial Viewers

A large number of marketers continue to make special efforts to connect with millennial consumers, and television is still a way to reach a mass number of the key 18-34-year-old demographic.

While 18-34 viewing on broadcast television declined last season and it is not cost effective to buy broadcast shows just to reach millennials, there are a number of non-sports shows that more millennials watch and those can be value added for marketers who are buying those shows to reach other demos.

A total of 13 non-sports primetime shows, not including specials, averaged more than 1 million millennial viewers live-plus-same-day during the 2014-15 season, and all 13 will be back for the new season this fall.

The most-watched broadcast network primetime series this past season among millennials was Fox drama Empire, which averaged 2.2 million viewers per episode, according to Nielsen data. Next on the list is ABC drama Scandal and CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, which both averaged 1.6 million 18-34 viewers. ABC reality series The Bachelor, NBC’s The Voice and Fox animated series Family Guy each averaged 1.5 million millennial viewers.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Fox animated series The Simpsons with 1.4 million 18-34 viewers; ABC sitcom Modern Family and ABC dramas Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder, which each averaged 1.3 million 18-34 viewers.

Just missing the Top 10 were ABC drama Once Upon a Time, which averaged 1.2 million millennials; and two Fox shows, American Idol Wednesday and sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which averaged 1.1 million 18-34 viewers.

Those were the only regularly scheduled broadcast network primetime shows that averaged more than 1 million millennial viewers.

Other shows among the Top 20 included ABC drama Revenge, which was cancelled, but averaged 976,000 millennials; Fox comedy Last Man on Earth (964,000); CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls (964,000); ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (917,000); Fox drama Gotham (909,000); ABC drama Resurrection, which was also cancelled but averaged 894,000; and NBC drama The Blacklist (892,000).

Another cancelled series, NBC’s Parks and Recreation, averaged 890,000 millennial viewers. ABC’s freshman comedy Black-ish averaged 889,000, while CBS reality series Survivor averaged 872,000.

Some broadcast shows with older median ages also drew decent chunks of 18-34 viewers. CBS drama NCIS, which has a median age audience of 63, averaged 757,000 18-34 viewers, while CBS drama NCIS: New Orleans, with a similar median age, leading out of NCIS averaged 732,000 millennials. CBS news magazine 60 Minutes, which also has a median age audience of 63, averaged 714,000 18-34 viewers, although some of those may be a spillover from the Sunday afternoon NFL games which sometimes flow into 60 Minutes' usual start time.

NBC’s Law & Order: SVU, with a median age audience of 60, averaged 701,000 millennial viewers, while CBS drama Criminal Minds, with a median age audience of 58, drew 818,000 adults 18-34 per episode.

The CW’s two shows with the largest number of millennial viewers are The Flash with 671,000 and Arrow with 545,000. Supernatural drew 429,000 18-34 viewers this past season.

Family Guy has the largest percentage of its audience made up of viewers 18-34 – about 35% of its total 4.2 million viewers are millennials. The Simpsons is next as a percentage of audience with about 33% of its 4.8 million viewers being millennials.

On a percentage of audience basis, the three CW shows are close to the top. Supernatural’s millennial viewership makes up 29% of its total 1.8 million audience; The Flash’s millennial audience is 22% of its total 3.2 million viewers, while Arrow’s 18-34 viewership is also about 22% of its total 2.5 million audience.

Empire’s 18-34 viewership makes up about 18% of its total 12.7 million audience, while about 18% of Scandal’s total audience is millennial viewers as is about 19% of The Bachelor’s audience.

On a median age basis, Fox has some of the youngest skewing shows in broadcast primetime, even younger than The CW, which has been aging up. The CW’s three most-watched shows had median age audiences in the 40s with Arrow at 46 and The Flash and Supernatural at 43.

Fox’s adult animated series all have median age audiences in the 30s, along with Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Sitcom New Girl just hit the 40 median age mark this past season and The Mindy Project, which was cancelled, had a median age audience of 41.

The lowest median age show for Fox was Family Guy at 35, followed by Bob’s Burgers and The Simpsons at 37 and Brooklyn Nine-Nine at 39.

As for the networks overall, the CW this past season was up 5% in 18-34 viewership, rising from an average 315,000 viewers a night to 330,000. Both CBS and ABC were down 6%. CBS fell from 769,000 millennials a night in primetime to 720,000, while ABC dropped from 843,000 to 792,000. The percentages of decline for both CBS and ABC show that not a huge number of millennials abandoned those networks last season.

Comparisons are harder to make for NBC and Fox. NBC averaged 1.2 million millennial viewers during the 2013-14 season when it televised the Winter Olympics in primetime, and then averaged 1 million millennial viewers this past season when it televised the Super Bowl. NBC was down 17% in the 18-34 demo but it aired many more nights of Olympic coverage two seasons ago than just the one night Super Bowl.

Fox this past season was down a whopping 36% among viewers 18-34 per night – from 1.2 million in 2013-14 to 773,000 in 2014-15. A good chunk of that, however, is due to the Super Bowl airing on Fox during the previous season. Fox also canceled its singing competition series The X Factor after the 2013-14 season, which averaged about 900,000 18-34 viewers for each of its two weekly episodes.

Still, overall, many shows on the broadcast networks continue to pull in mass numbers of millennial viewers, presenting a prime target for those marketers who want to reach them with immediate messages. While it may not be cost efficient to target only millennials on broadcast television, it's safe to say that marketers that buy space on these most-watched or younger median age shows this coming season will reach many in the 18-34-year-old demographic.