Where the Upscale Viewers Are

NBC's Thursday night, led by Will & Grace, is the most upscale in television, attracting the largest percentage of adults 18-49 who earn incomes of more than $75,000 annually, according to a new report from Magna Global's Steve Sternberg.

"Programs that are upscale can command a premium from advertisers," he says. "If two shows do the same type of rating in adults 18-49 and adults 25-54 and one is upscale and the other is not, then the network can charge more money for its spots."

Will & Grace
and its lead-out last year, Good Morning, Miami, are the two most upscale shows on TV in this demo, but Scrubs, Friends
and ER
are all in the top 10. Not coincidentally, NBC's Thursday night also is the most profitable on television, according to Morgan Stanley's Rich Bilotti.

NBC and Fox shut out the other networks with the most upscale shows in the key 18-49 demo. ABC doesn't enter the 18-49 list until Extreme Makeover
shows up at No. 12, and CBS doesn't appear until No. 28 with Amazing Race 3. The WB and UPN both have entries sooner: The WB's Dawson's Creek
and The Surreal Life
were No. 19 and 22, respectively, while UPN's America's Next Top Model
was No. 28.

CBS fares only a little better among the older demos. CSI, CSI: Miami
and Still Standing
tie for No. 11 among adults 35-64, while Everybody Loves Raymond
is No. 18 in that demo. CSI
and CSI: Miami, CBS's two biggest drama hits, tie for No. 32 in adults 18-49.

It's more important to advertisers that shows are upscale in the older demographics, Sternberg says, because sellers of luxury goods tend to target older audiences. Also, there are fewer upscale viewers in the adult 18-34 demo.

Dawson's Creek, which completed its seven-year run in May, is last year's most upscale show in adults 18-34, with 15% of its total audience having an annual household income of $75,000 or more. By comparison, 27% of Will & Grace's and Good Morning, Miami's audiences were upscale.

Sternberg also points out that expensive urban markets and lower-cost rural markets are all evaluated using the same measure, but it's not necessarily fair to compare a $75,000+ household in San Francisco with one with a similar household income in Des Moines, Iowa.

Among reality shows, Fox's Joe Millionaire
topped the list, coming in as the third most upscale show in adults 18-49 and in adults 18-34. American Idol, Fox's other reality powerhouse last year, is the No. 12 upscale show in adults 18-49 and No. 18 among adults 18-34. Fox's Mr. Personality
and Fox's Married by America, both mediocre ratings performers overall, are more upscale than American Idol: Mr. Personality
sixth in adults 18-49 and third in 18-34, Married by America
ninth in adults 18-49 and seventh in adults 18-34.

Fox's 24, Will & Grace
and Good Morning, Miami
were the only shows to rate among the top 15 in all the key adult demos: 18-34, 18-49, 25-54 and 35-64.

In adults 25-54, Will & Grace, Good Morning, Miami
and Frasier
on Thursday nights at 9:30 (as opposed to its regular Tuesday 9 p.m. time slot) and NBC's The West Wing
prevail in adults 25-54. In its regular time slot, Frasier
is 22nd with adults 18-49, 40th with adults 18-34 and 13th with adults 25-54. The West Wing
also is tops among adults 35-64, followed by NBC's Ed, which ranks 28th among adults 18-49.

In general, daytime television is not upscale, and NBC's Today is "by far the most upscale of the Monday-Friday early-morning shows," Sternberg writes. Today
wins adults 18-49, followed by ABC's The View
and the syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show
in that demo. NBC's Days of Our Lives
is television's most upscale soap opera.

Paige Albiniak

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.