What Men Watch
When they're not playing fantasy football, guys like shows that give them a competitive edge -- and advertisers will pay more to reach them.
The television landscape has splintered, with niche networks now catering to every conceivable demographic and interest. But amid the clutter, there is one large yet elusive constituency that advertisers still pay a premium to reach: men, especially young men. That's because males still watch less television than females, making them more difficult for advertisers to locate.
In fact, most estimates put the TV-watching audience at about 60 percent women, and despite a seismic shift in gender roles, women are still at home -- and in front of the television -- much more often than men.
"Most of TV skews somewhat female and skews old," says Todd Gordon, senior vp and managing director at media agency Initiative. "So older demos and female demos tend to be a little bit easier to find and a little bit less expensive to reach than younger demos or men."
Shows such as Fox's animated comedies The Simpsons and Family Guy -- which averaged a middling 7.3 million and 7.8 million total viewers last season, respectively -- can charge more than $250,000 for a 30-second spot. That's 14 percent more than the female-skewing ABC drama Grey's Anatomy, which averaged nearly 12 million viewers and charged about $220,000 for a 30-second commercial last season. "If you're designing a show and you want to make a lot of money, you want to bring in young men," says Gordon.
Of course, live sports programming is where buyers go to reach the most overall viewers and the most men. And top-rated shows like Fox's American Idol still reach the big, broad audiences advertisers crave most. But smaller-scale hits like FX pair Justified and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, as well as Comedy Central's guy-humor lineup including current "It" boy Daniel Tosh's Tosh.0, can deliver big profits without huge ratings -- if men tune in regularly.
In addition to being priced differently, men and women exhibit distinct emotional motivations behind their media consumption, according to psychology experts. Women tend to look for empowerment, which is why Oprah Winfrey is such a potent brand. Underscoring traditional Venus and Mars stereotypes, many male motivations don't stray far from the prehistoric cave. According to ad-buying firm Starcom, men consume media for four reasons: to prepare themselves for battle; to feel rebellious; to connect to a passion (mostly sports, music or cars); and to be mentally challenged. Starcom measured 600 media outlets, including TV, digital and print properties, and polled 20,000 people to arrive at a proprietary "emotional index" for planning and buying purposes.
"It's kind of funny and a little bit cliché," says Kathy Kline, Starcom senior vp and human experience director. "But there's a whole emotional territory of media that men engage in to gain a competitive edge."
Thus, they "arm themselves for battle" with the Weather Channel or CNBC's Mad Money, says Kline. They use MTV (Jersey Shore) and VH1 (Basketball Wives) to feel rebellious and "a little bit like an outlaw." ESPN and NASCAR programming hit passion levers and reinforce male aspirations to be athletic and powerful. And programs like Comedy Central's The Colbert Report and History's Pawn Stars provide a mental challenge.
Men also love subversive humor, which explains the popularity of Comedy Central and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block. Says Kline of the sweet spot for men, "It's entertaining stuff that has an edge, a little bit dark and very witty."
The top 10 network nonsports series among men ages 18 to 24
- American Idol (performance*) (Fox) -- 1.5 million
- Family Guy (Fox) --1.2 million
- The Simpsons (Fox) -- 1.04 million
- Bob's Burgers (Fox) -- 1.03 million
- The Voice (NBC) -- 1.01 million
- The Office (NBC) -- 950,000
- The Cleveland Show (Fox) -- 943,000
- America's Got Talent (perf.) (NBC) -- 854,000
- House (Fox) -- 801,000
- Mondern Family (ABC) -- 776,000
* Including results shows, "Idol" would have occupied the No. 2 slot as well.
The top 10 cable nonsports series among men ages 18 to 34
- WWE Raw (USA) -- 775,000
- Workaholics (Comedy Central) -- 506,000
- Tosh.O (Comedy Central) -- 402,000
- Pawn Stars (HIST) -- 401,000
- American Dad (Adult Swim) -- 400,000
- Jersey Shore (MTV) -- 399,000
- Justified (FX) -- 381,000
- WWE Tough Enough (USA) -- 380,000
- Family Guy (TBS) -- 375,000
- Falling Skies (TNT) -- 370,000
► WHERE MEN HANG OUT
The 10 cable networks with the largest primetime viewership among men ages 18 to 34
- ESPN -- 343,000
- TNT -- 330,000
- Comedy Central -- 275,000
- History Channel -- 236,000
- TBS -- 233,000
- USA -- 229,000
- FX -- 222,000
- Adult Swim -- 219,000
- MTV -- 183,000
- Discovery -- 177,000
► HISPANIC: BROADCASTING
The top 10 network nonsports series among men age 18 to 34
- Family Guy (Fox) -- 208,000
- American Idol (performance*) (Fox) -- 188,000
- The Simpsons (Fox) -- 180,000
- Bob's Burgers (Fox) -- 172,000
- The Voice (NBC) -- 165,000
- The Cleveland Show (Fox) -- 151,000
- MasterChef (Fox) -- 138,000
- American Dad (Fox) -- 123,000
- America's Got Talent (performance*) (NBC) -- 106,000
- House (Fox) -- 100,000
* Including results shows, "Idol" would have occupied the No. 6 slot as well.
► HISPANIC: CABLE
The top 10 cable nonsports sereis among men ages 18 to 34
- WWE Raw (USA) -- 177,000
- Jersey Shore (MTV) -- 83,000
- WWE Friday Night SmackDown (SyFy) -- 76,000
- Family Guy (TBS) -- 54,000
- WWE Tough Enough (USA) -- 51,000
- NY Ink (TLC) -- 51,000
- Impact Wrestling (Spike) -- 50,000
- Family Guy (Adult Swim) -- 49,000
- American Dad (Adult Swim) -- 49,000
- The Ultimate Fighter (Spike) -- 48,000
► AFRICAN-AMERICAN: BROADCAST
The top 10 network nonsports series among men ages 18 to 34
- Family Guy (Fox) -- 147,000
- The Cleveland Show (Fox) -- 143,000
- American Idol (performance*) (Fox) -- 139,000
- The Simpsons (Fox) -- 123,000
- Bob's Burgers (Fox) -- 117,000
- V (ABC) -- 113,000
- The Voice (NBC) -- 98,000
- So You Think You Can Dance? (performance*) (Fox) -- 95,000
- American Dad (Fox) -- 90,000
- MasterChef (Fox) -- 85,000
► AFRICAN-AMERICAN: CABLE
The top 10 cable nonsports series among men ages 18 to 34
- The Game (BET) -- 182,000
- WWE Raw (USA) -- 128,000
- Let's Stay Together (BET) -- 102,000
- House of Payne (TBS) -- 100,000
- Are We There Yet? (TBS) -- 94,000
- Toya: A Family Affair (BET) -- 90,000
- Basketball Wives (VH1) -- 88,000
- Sunday Best (BET) -- 83,000
- Family Guy (Adult Swim) -- 73,000
- American Dad (Adult Swim) -- 72,000
► LATE-NIGHT TV
Jay Leno's Tonight Show generates the highest ratings, but more than 6 in 10 Stephen Colbert viewers are men.
- The Colbert Report -- 61.1%
- The Daily Show with John Stewart -- 60.7%
- Conan -- 54.9%
- Lopez Tonight -- 52.7%
- The Tonight Show With Jay Leno -- 45.3%
- Late Night With Jimmy Fallon -- 43.9%
- The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson -- 42.3%
- Late Show With David Letterman -- 41.3%
- Jimmy Kimmel Live -- 36.3%
- Chelsea Lately -- 33.8%
Source: All chart data come from Nielsen and represents live-plus-same-day viewership among men age 18 to 34 from Dec. 27 to July 17. Only nonsports regular series in primetime were included.