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Some Nets Show Touch of Gray

If broadcast is considered an old medium in terms of its viewers’ age, then cable is a little gray itself.

According to an analysis of Nielsen Media Research data of 60 networks by media agency Magna Global, only seven cable channels — excluding those directly targeting kids — had younger median ages in primetime than the youngest broadcast network, UPN, which had a median viewer of 31 during the 2005-06 TV season. Nick at Nite (14), Adult Swim (16), Fuse (18), MTV2 (18), MTV: Music Television (21), Black Entertainment Television (27) and VH1 (28) all fell below UPN’s level.

Moreover, Steve Sternberg, executive vice president, director of audience analysis, wrote in Magna’s publication Media Insights that 13 cable networks have a median age exceeding CBS’s 52, the oldest number among broadcasters.

The median age viewer of NBC, ABC, Fox and The WB were 49, 46, 39 and 37, respectively, last season. The median age of U.S. population in TV households was 37, according to the Magna analysis of Nielsen data.

Should Fox continue to skew older — its median age viewer was 35 in the 2002-03 season — Sternberg suggested that, with the merger of UPN and The WB, the resultant CW could be the only broadcaster with a median age under 40 in 2006-07.

Among Sternberg’s other findings: While half of the six broadcasters had median age viewers of under 40 last season, only 14 of the 60 cable channels, or 23%, measured up that way.

While the median viewer age for all Big Three networks was over 45, 55% of the cable networks considered, 33 out of 60 channels, were past that middle-age milestone.

Overall, Sternberg’s scorecard showed that three of the broadcast networks had median ages in the 30s, two in the 40s and one in the 50s. By contrast, cable had seven networks with median ages under 30, seven in the 30s, 23 in the 40s, 19 in the 50s, plus four above 60.

A look at Sternberg’s analysis indicates that 15 networks had a decrease in median age last TV season, led by A&E Network and Style’s four-year declines. Ten held their ground, including Country Music Television, which notched the biggest median age decline of five years from 49 in the 2003-04 season to 44 in each of the past two campaigns.

Conversely, a total of 27 saw their median age increase from 2004-05 to last season. Eight others were measured in the study for the first time.