Advertisers have long lusted after the adults 18-49 demographic, and most broadcast deals are made based on those ratings. But suddenly, for the first time ever, the average TV viewer does not fit into that demo. This year the median age of viewers on the Big Four networks in primetime has crept above 50.
Steve Burke doesn’t want people, or advertisers, to pay attention to total viewer ratings because “we’re in the 18-to-49 business,” he told a press gathering today in the run-up to the upfront sales season. Indeed, if presented with a program that would attract a big total audience, but would be weak in the target demo, “we wouldn’t pick that show up,” he says.
On Dec. 31, 2013, the last of the Baby Boomers will turn 50 years old, and the most significant generational cohort in history will graduate from the 18-49 TV ratings category: the demographic group usually referred to by television journalists as “highly prized” or “most coveted.” With the Boomers moving into a new demographic, isn’t it time for reporters to stop fixating on 18- to 49-year-olds?
Through nine weeks of the new season — and heading into the holiday season lull of repeats and specials — Fox is still the leading network among key 18-49 viewers. The network, which has boosted its fall fortunes with new shows New Girl and The X Factor, is averaging a Nielsen 3.0 rating among 18-49 viewers (3.89 million), from Sept. 19 through Nov. 20.