MBPT Spotlight: Marketers Looking to Target Millennials on Broadcast This Summer Have to Aim Well

Most marketers these days are trying to target millennials, but clearly it’s easier said than done. That’s particularly true during the summer, when older folks tend to stay home while the 18-34 crowd is out and about and even more elusive than during the regular broadcast television season. And since they are still reachable via digital devices, linear TV becomes an even harder way to target them.

Marketers are not likely to be building summer TV campaigns to reach millennials specifically, but there are some broadcast network series during the summer that draw more of an 18-34 audience than others and are easy for the cherry-picking by marketers.

The top 10 series in that demo from last summer on the English-language broadcast networks include: NBC’s America’s Got Talent, which averaged 1.3 million adults 18-34 for each of its Tuesday and Wednesday telecasts; Fox cooking competition series MasterChef (1.3 million); Fox’s other cooking competition series Hell’s Kitchen (1.2 million); CBS drama Under theDome (1.1 million); CBS outdoor competition series Big Brother (which averaged about 1.1 million for its three weekly episodes); ABC’s reality series The Bachelorette (1 million); and Fox’s animated Family Guy (1 million).

All those series will be on this summer, but they are the only broadcast series that averaged more than 1 million 18-34 viewers per telecast. And in fairness, those series drew more folks in the younger demo than most of the cable network dramas that get so much media attention when they premiere their new seasons during the summer.

And of course if marketers want to reach younger millennials in greater numbers on a consistent basis during the summer there’s MTV and ABC Family, but even some of their series are hard-pressed to draw more than 1 million viewers in the demo.

Other broadcast network series last summer that produced higher than most 18-34 ratings were NBC’s summer competition series American Ninja Warrior (899,000); Fox’s animated The Simpsons (890,000); summer competition series So You Think You Can Dance (867,000); and animated Bob’s Burgers (869,000); CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory (817,000); and ABC’s Shark Tank (776,000).

The CW is the youngest-skewing English-language broadcast network, but its series last summer did not pull in any kind of sizable 18-34 numbers except for improvisation comedy series Whose Line Is It Anyway?, which averaged 559,000 viewers in the demo after premiering later in the summer.

The CW tried a couple of new series last summer and also brought back returning reality series Breaking Pointe, but none did particularly well. New wilderness competition series Capture was the best, drawing 236,000 18-34 viewers per episode. Returning musical chairs game show Oh Sit! averaged 170,000 viewers 18-34 and new game show Perfect Score averaged 166,000. Breaking Pointe, which offered a behind-the-scenes look at a Utah ballet company, averaged just 109,000 viewers 18-34 and the network is not bringing it back for a third season this summer.

The Nets’ Net

For the four-month summer season last year, NBC averaged a 1.2 rating in the 18-34 demo (839,000 viewers per night); Fox averaged a 1.1 (739,000 viewers); ABC averaged a 1.1 (728,000 viewers); and CBS averaged a 0.7 (487,000). The CW, meanwhile, averaged just a 0.3 in the demo, or 181,000 viewers per night, mostly because their audience is not home watching TV during the summer months or is watching digitally.

But cumulatively, the five English-language broadcast networks last summer averaged close to 3 million viewers 18-34 per night and that is still a sizable chunk of audience for advertisers wanting to reach that demo group.

All the broadcast networks are getting more aggressive by introducing more new series this summer, but few of them seem like they will draw large numbers of millennials. With sci-fi series Under the Dome doing so well among the group last summer for CBS, its new sci-fi series this summer, Extant, starring Halle Berry, has a chance to become a destination for a sizable number viewers in the 18-34 demo, although the bulk of the audience should be older.

ABC will be airing Bachelor in Paradise from the producers of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, so that could draw millennial viewers. In its last season on the air, drama 24 on Fox averaged about 1.5 million viewers 18-34, so the return of 24: Another Day starring Kiefer Sutherland could bring some in. And ABC’s high-tech, futuristic competition series The Quest, from the producers of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Amazing Race, may also draw some interest.

But the other new summer series from ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox seem geared toward older audiences.

The CW is going to experiment with two new sitcoms this summer, an interesting move since it hasn’t had a scripted comedy on its schedule for several years. On July 14, The CW will premiere two half-hour comedies—Backpackers and Seed.Backpackers follows a pair of best friends who race across Europe in search of one of the guys’ missing bride-to-be. Seed follows a single, underachieving bachelor/bartender and sperm donor who begins a relationship with three separate families, including a lesbian couple, a single woman and an uptight, upper-class family.

Getting Real—and Magical

The CW is also introducing three new reality series this summer. Famous in 12, which premieres June 3 at 8 p.m., follows a family around the clock for 12 weeks as it strives to become famous. TMZ and its host Harvey Levin will be among those offering guidance and opportunities for the family members. Levin is one of the executive producers.

A second reality series, Penn & Teller: Fool Us, premiering July 30 at 8 p.m., is about aspiring magicians who perform their best tricks and try to fool Penn and Teller before a live audience. A third reality series, Masters of Illusion, will be hosted by Dean Cain. Premiering Friday, Aug. 1 at 8 p.m., the series will feature performances by illusionists and escape artists.

The CW scripted comedies are a test by the network in a less pressurized environment than fall to see if the network can draw its millennial audience into that genre. The three reality series will need to draw in the same number of millennials (500,000-plus) as Whose Line did last summer to get marketers targeting that demo excited.

However, The CW is trying to bring new and different types of programming to its core audience in the warmer months. It will be interesting to see how many millennials this new programming draws to linear TV.

Meanwhile, the Big Four broadcast networks are more concerned with bringing in more 18-49 or even 25-54 audiences this summer with their programming. Drawing millennials would be a bonus.

Still, marketers seem fixated on targeting more millennials, and while some of them may have to pick and choose and make some scatter buys, they can find at least a handful of shows on the broadcasters to aim at.