TV Networks Target Aging Baby Boomers With Shows, Talent


“The fact is an affluent 58-year-old is certainly more valuable than a 22-year-old who is just getting by,” CBS Corp. chief research officer David Poltrack says in explaining how networks are pitching marketers.


NEW YORK -- As baby boomers continue to age and fall out of TV’s traditional target demographic of 18- to 49-year-olds, TV networks appeal to them by retooling and rebooting classic shows and featuring talent in their 60s, while also looking to charge advertisers more to reach this audience with major spending power, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The nearly 80 million boomers, who turn 47-65 this year, watch more TV - five to six hours a day, compared with the average of four hours and 49 minutes, according to Nielsen - and control half of U.S. consumer spending, according to the paper. And it highlighted that the average age of the primetime TV viewer this season hit 51.

As latest examples of recent shows with lead talent with boomer appeal, it cited CBS police series Blue Bloods featuring Tom Selleck (66), NBC legal show Harry’s Law with Kathy Bates (62) and even Fox’s American Idol where 62-year-old Steven Tyler is a much-discussed new judge this season. In terms of retooling hits from the past, CBS has had much success with its new version of Hawaii Five-0, and ABC is developing a Charlie's Angels remake, among others.

Network executives are these days pitching higher ad rates to marketers with the argument that boomers aren’t stopping to spend around age 55 as previous generations, instead buying iPads, vacations and other things, the Journal said.

"People still think of their grandparents when they were 60 wearing comfort shoes and baggy chinos," Alan Wurtzel, NBCUniversal's president of research, told the paper. "These guys are just fundamentally different."

"Rather than saying a 22-year-old is more valuable than a 58-year-old, we're saying, 'Look, the fact is an affluent 58-year-old is certainly more valuable than a 22-year-old who is just getting by’," David Poltrack, chief research officer at CBS Corp., told the Journal.

Of course, networks still get higher ad rates for shows with younger viewers. A 30-second spot on American Idol, with an average age of 44, on average costs $435,000, or about $46.75 per viewer, the Journal cited media research firm SQAD Inc. A spot on older-skewing The Good Wife on CBS on average cost $108,000, or $25 per viewer, it said. And Fox’s Glee, one of the youngest-skewing primetime shows, gets $47 a viewer.