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Television Media United States Entertainment

TV Viewers' Average Age Hits 50 331

Ant writes "Variety reports on a recent study that says TV viewership's median age is outside the 18-49 years demographic: "The broadcast networks have grown older than ever — if they were a person, they wouldn't even be a part of TV's target demo anymore." These totals exclude DVR users, and apparently the oldest since they started tracking it. Of course you know what the means ... TV is for old people! The internet has confirmed it.
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TV Viewers' Average Age Hits 50

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  • by Aussenseiter ( 1241842 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:10PM (#24024651)
    Confirmed it? More like caused it.
    • by telchine ( 719345 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:24PM (#24024791)

      >>The internet has confirmed it.

      Ah, but what does Netcraft say?

    • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:34PM (#24024861) Journal
      Actually - TFA says "broadcast TV". You know, the networks. A lot of the stuff on "cable" isn't worth watching, by any demographic, so of course the audience for Network programming is skewed towards the older, wiser crowd. Even my 18 year old daughter shakes her head at the crap on MTV, for example. (I tell her it WAS cool, in the 80's, but that is dating myself)

      I don't watch much TV either, but I do find I would rather watch something like "House" over the crap on MTV now-a-days. Although, the cable channels like Discovery actually win out in the end.

      Most "TV" consumed in my house is first encoded to a disk drive, then watched in as close to 44 minutes per hour as possible.

      • MTV, for example. (I tell her it WAS cool, in the 80's, but that is dating myself)

        Two points -

        1. MTV as never *cool*, unless you define "cool" as being part of the "Under-15-OMFG-Gag-Me-With-A-Spoon!" crowd.
        2. If you're "dating yourself", I hope you at least do it in private, so your kid doesn't see you.
      • by OakDragon ( 885217 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:50PM (#24025469) Journal

        TFA says "broadcast TV". You know, the networks.

        Quite right. Maybe they're like my parents, who just get network TV on rabbit ears. Once I brought up the subject of satellite TV. My mom said "That'll be the day, when I pay for TV!"

        In a way, I admire that. In another way, I like watching "Mythbusters."

      • by Shemmie ( 909181 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @12:53AM (#24026277)
        I'm 26 - recently moved out for the first time. I haven't bothered with a TV, as the one thing I actually adore on TV - House - I'd rather buy the DVD's.

        If every show was of that quality... as it isn't, it's a waste of money. I'd rather pay for my ISP and have all the fun of the net.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by thermian ( 1267986 )

          I haven't owned a tv for over a decade (I'm 42, so well into the age range that is supposed to like TV).

          Its the advertising really. I can't stand it. The time I loved TV was in the seventies. Since then my use of tv has waned, and now died.

          Now I buy series on dvd if I decide I like them. Usually this deciding is via encountering them on the internet.

          In this way I got to watch five seasons of Stargate without ever having seen an episode before then. It was awesome, much more fun then suffering years of waiti

      • by omeomi ( 675045 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @01:07AM (#24026349) Homepage
        so of course the audience for Network programming is skewed towards the older, wiser crowd. Even my 18 year old daughter shakes her head at the crap on MTV, for example.

        You know there are more channels on cable that have programming geared towards the "older, wiser crowd", right? MTV isn't the only channel on cable. Channels like The History Channel, Discovery, TLC, The Documentary Channel, and well, CNN, CSPAN, and others provide way more interesting TV than most of the network shows.
        • You know there are more channels on cable that have programming geared towards the "older, wiser crowd", right? MTV isn't the only channel on cable. Channels like The History Channel, Discovery, TLC, The Documentary Channel, and well, CNN, CSPAN, and others provide way more interesting TV than most of the network shows.

          I'm not sure how long its been since you watched TV, but TLC stopped showing educational programming around the mid-90s, and for the past 5 or 6 years at least has been pretty much exclusivel

      • The important part of the target demographic isn't the quantity of viewers, it's the quantity of buyers.

        Advertisers don't care if they show it to 10,000,000 people and 50,000 follow up with a sale or 500,000 are shown and 50,000 follow up with a sale. A Sale is a Sale. Sales per $ of advertising is one of the most important metrics. If they have to direct marketing past 60% of the audience which isn't interested that's fine--they weren't going to buy anything from them anyway.

        Network television reaches

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:39PM (#24024895) Homepage Journal

      Well, it's not just that. The Internet has helped, sure, but the biggest problem the networks face is declining viewership as cable channels do better and better jobs at hitting more specific niches. You have channels for everything from sci-fi to home improvement. The Internet merely takes that one step farther and creates channels for everything from nude archery to watching people's feet as they walk past aisles of clothing at J.C. Penney.

      The point is that as the availability of options increases, the interest in individual options decreases, and younger viewers are far more likely to find those new options and take advantage of them than older viewers simply because they are more connected with other people. You hear about things on TV, the radio, email, around work, etc. Retired people have much more limited ways to find out about these things, and thus are much less likely to end up watching the Smurfs With Green Moustaches Drawn On By Monkeys In Tutus Hour. Therefore, the older demographic will be much slower to transition away from legacy technologies like broadcast TV and towards more niche-oriented content like cable channels, towards more on-demand technologies like iTunes, and towards more peer-generated services like YouTube.

      I predicted the death of broadcast TV back in 1995. IIRC, I gave it 10-15 years. It may take a little longer, but I suspect I was a lot closer than the folks who read my essay suspected....

      • Smurfs With Green Moustaches Drawn On By Monkeys In Tutus Hour.

        Hey yeah, when are they going to show that again anyway? Man, that was teh shizzle!

      • I predicted the death of broadcast TV back in 1995. IIRC, I gave it 10-15 years. It may take a little longer, but I suspect I was a lot closer than the folks who read my essay suspected....

        That's a worthless prediction. Mediums generally don't die because there's a newer one. Radio was supposed to kill newspapers. TV was supposed to kill radio. But newspapers and radio had both changed in response to its "replacement". Their audience did diminish (and are still diminishing) but they aren't dying. If you really want to push it, given that eventually most internet use is at least one stage broadcast wirelessly, the model of broadcasting only changes, but it's still broadcasting.

        With the a

    • Three things have killed TV.

      1. The internet came along with it's wide variety of diversions.

      2. TV companies decided to have hundreds of channels of crap, rather than a few good ones.

      3. People are watching TV programs online now.
  • by MacDork ( 560499 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:11PM (#24024667) Journal
    Americans are living longer and having fewer kids. Surprised?
  • Excellent! (Score:4, Funny)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:12PM (#24024677)
    So since I don't watch the boob tube [1] I must not be old, right? (Looking at driver's license and checking the date.)

    So how come the AARP keeps pestering me and the stores offer me the "seniors discount?"

    [1] Thanks very much, $HERSELF's boobs here are still very worth watching.

  • You mean that thing with the buttons and goofy controller? My GRANDMOTHER gets her media from one of those!

  • and the Celtics, or $(your_fav_sports_team) and $(your_fav_russian_ladies_tennis_player). Oh, and Weeds on SHO.
    • I concur. As soon as I can get reliable and reasonably high resolution games on the net the tv is going out the window.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LostCluster ( 625375 ) *

      And all those Red Sox and Celtics road games on the Boston superstation, WSBK TV38...

      Hey, wait a second. Those all moved to NESN and what's now known as Comcast Sports Net New England (formerly Fox Sports Net New England, formerly SportsChannel New England).

      It used to be you had the option of seeing the home games on those two as pay channels for $20-$30 a month, 1/15 or so took them up on that. Now everybody with expanded basic service gets them, but the bills went up $3-5 a month as a result.

      1. Have sport

    • PHB alert - no mention of BSG...
  • by telso ( 924323 )
    I thought Slashdot was bad using average in the headline and median in the story, but then I RTFA:

    [T]he five broadcast nets' average live median age [...] was 50 last season.

    • by mr_matticus ( 928346 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:22PM (#24024757)
      The average of the medians of the five broadcast networks is 50 (i.e. each network had a respective median age of 48, 49, 50, 51, 52 [made-up numbers], which averages to 50). There is nothing wrong with TFA.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I thought Slashdot was bad using average in the headline and median in the story, but then I RTFA:

      I would have thought that on slashdot of all places this wouldn't have to be explained. The word average can reffer to mean, median or mode. While the media, and as a result, most people with average math skills (or less), often talk/write as though the only definition of the word average is mean, all three are correct. (and as such neither the article nor the summary did anything bad)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ucblockhead ( 63650 )

      From what I gather RTFA, what they mean is that the took the median ages for each of the five networks and averaged them together. In other words, "average live median age" is actually correct as the figure is indeed the average of the median ages for each network. (The headline of the article is confused though as this says nothing about the average age of viewers.)

    • by flynt ( 248848 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:38PM (#24024885)

      OK, I'm sick of this. Some pedant who probably doesn't know UMVUE from UMP always chimes in when someone mentions the words 'average' and 'median' within 1000 syllables of each other.

      I have a Master's degree in Statistics, a BS in mathematics, and work as a statistician.

      There is really not strict mathematical definition of 'average'. There is a concept of averages as measures of central tendency. However, I've just consulted three of my theoretical statistical inference texts, and not a single one of them has an index entry for the word 'average'. They of course have index entries for 'mean' and 'median'.

      Both mean and median are types of averages, neither inherently 'better' than the other. You won't find the word 'average' used in much technical literature because of this. You specify your statistic more precisely than that.

      So the next time you see the word 'average', don't freak out about it. If someone doesn't specify what they mean, ask them, that's an important question, and something you should think about. You're just arguing semantics and come off as uninformed, if not a bit annoying.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by srjh ( 1316705 )
      The median is an average. Average is actually rather loosely defined, and the arithmetic mean that everyone seems to think it is synonymous with is only one of a number of definitions.
    • "I thought Slashdot was bad using average in the headline and median in the story..."

      "Average" is a category of statistics which can include the mean, median, mode, etc.

      See []

    • The best definition for average is probably "typical". It is an idea rather than a precise measure. Usually, though, it does mean "arithmetic mean" so you are right in that regard.
  • by linzeal ( 197905 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:22PM (#24024755) Homepage Journal
    We will be seeing the advent of decentralized media taking over. I myself use a cable companies DVR to watch some shows like the Venture Brothers and sometimes the Daily show. Honestly though with the lack of interaction for the television I find myself boring of it within an hour or so. I cannot stand news television that they sometimes leave on at the bar I frequent down from where I work. For one I have carefully made sure that my RSS feeds exclude any mention of sports, celebrity gossip or the like as I do not consider them news.

    I usually get up in the morning and read first to see if the world has blown up and than peruse the RSS feeds from Eureka Alerts [] before downloading my custom top 50 stories unto my Sony Ebook Reader [] which I recently upgraded to from my old Palm M500. On the light rail I read the news like people used to read newspapers, completely on most days unless a slew of unwanted stories is downloaded. I find reading things that may not interest me at first can become a pretty enlightening experience and I am now as of a few months ago becoming more familiar with new economic movements such as crowdsourcing [] and Wikinomics.

  • Welcome to the new demographic, at least for the next 25 years.

  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:28PM (#24024815)

    Anybody notice something missing from the broadcast (over-the-air) channels from the last few years?

    10-20 years ago... you would find nearly half of your local NBA, MLB, and NHL games on broadcast, and as time went on the other half (mostly home games) would show up on HBO-like pay cable. Now, nearly all the games not on national TV are found on one basic cable network at least partly owned by the team. And cable bills went up a few dollars a month when that network moved from pay to basic status or got started in the first place.

    News coverage has been cut back too. The idea of having a studio in every country we had friendly relations with has gone by the wayside. Longform presantations of things like the political conventions have been shifted to basic cable networks.

    There used to just be "The People's Court" for court shows. Now there's enough syndicated judge-personality shows on broadcast to fill an entire daytime lineup. Cheapest to produce wins, the only thing cheaper is Jerry Springer and his knockoffs.

    It's said what our seniors are getting for television signals these days, no wonder why those of us that can afford it get cable or DBS.

    • There isn't any REAL content on broadcast any longer that compares even with that of even the early 80s.

      Desperate Housewives? Gimme a break.

      When they can show South Park and real Soprano's episodes, I may tune back in.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Nice rose colored glasses, but "Love Boat" and "Laverne & Shirley" were hardly the pinnacle of popular entertainment.

        The best network programming is probably as good or better than ever. But there's 1000x more filler content and it's mostly terrible.

  • by Rurik ( 113882 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:33PM (#24024853)
    These totals exclude DVR users

    That sums it all up. The younger generation have quickly adapted and taken advantage of time shifting and DVRs. The older generation is less likely to use new technology for watching television. Therefore, the studies are now skewed towards the higher age. Even my three year old knows to fast forward through commercials on our HTPC.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:51PM (#24024977)

      No. From the fine article:

      When live-plus-7 DVR viewing is factored in, the nets (except CW and Univision) drop by a year -- which still reps the oldest median age ever for the nets.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Aw man, he went and made up a whole bunch of insightful observations and you had to go and piss on his parade with facts.
  • Lots of reasons the demographic is skewed. Does the internet have over 50% penetration in the over 50s yet? I would think a very small percentage of people over 40 were exposed to BBS/internet service when still at home with their parents not to mention the nonexistence of those fancy Star Trek communicator cell phone thingies. So what is there besides TV to feel comfortable with if you don't grow after childhood?

    • by dbcad7 ( 771464 )
      Alright, I got 2 more years to hit the demographic.. but I am 8 years over 40 .. the internet of course goes back farther, but the internet with the WWW came into being in the early 90's.. I think I first hooked up onto the net late 93 or early 94 IIRC.(old people and their memory problems).. but for at least 10 years before that I had occasion to have accounts with.. The Source, Compuserve, AOL, Prodigy, and Genie at various times.. before any of these became true "internet" providers... now I am probably
      • I don't think it's all that unusual for us old farts to be long-time Internet users. I'm well into the demographic and have a similar history to yours when it comes to being online. I had a dial-up Unix shell Internet account in the early Nineties, back before the WWW became popular. Same deal with my wife before we met.

        BTW, my father, who's in his eighties, uses the 'net every day.

    • by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <fred_weigel@ h o> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:16PM (#24025175) Journal

      An interesting point -- but who created the internet and home computers for you?

      Yep -- we are all now in our 50's and up.

      But we didn't grow up on TV either -- the first TV in our family was used to watch the moon landing in '69. But there was no "cable"; we could only receive three stations. Wasn't worth watching, most of the time (except for exceptional events, like the moon landing).

      The previous generation (take my mother-in-law - she's in her '70s) didn't see a TV until their late twenties/early thirties -- it certainly isn't a formative part.

      Still, census disagrees with me a bit -- TV penetration in households in the USA was nearly complete by 1960 (I guess our family was a hold-out): []

      It may be that viewers born 1960 (and before) to 1970 (ei. those who did NOT start with cable) view TV programs as an "event" rather than as disposable entertainment, which may drive that demographic to watch first airings.

      (Ob: Now get off my lawn, you damn kids!)

      • by smchris ( 464899 )

        It's the soc degree in me. Anyone under the mid-sixties with a college degree has very likely had to use email and at least cruised the intra/internet at work. Whether they bother at home is another question. But I always remind myself that not everyone has a college degree or at least an office job.

        Under Forty-ish seems about right for the average milestone of "growing up at home with computers". I first connected to CompuServe at 300 baud Thanksgiving weekend of '86.

        Technically, I had my toddler mind

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxume ( 22995 )

      What? My mother is approaching 70. She uses the internet, email, has a digital camera, a cell phone, drives a car, etc.

      Your notion of old is very young.

  • hope beyond hope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:55PM (#24025017) Homepage Journal
    We keep hoping for shows like I Love Lucy, Charlies Angles, and BJ and the Bear. We keep hoping for another powerful women, not child girl, like Erin Grey. Young whipper snappers never saw TV when it was fresh and full of possibilities, after the slate of scripted network time wasting, and before the decline to unscripted networked time wasting. When the ideas were recycled from radio, not cannibalized from itself. It is no wonder that a generation raised on Seinfield and Friends would have no love for the one eyed beast. How could even Buffy engender the mythic loyalty of Bewitched.

    TV probably died in the year 2001. It is to be expected that, just like radio, it will hang on with it's one bony hand until it relegated to the backwoods of cheap motel rooms, where internet acess is not available.

  • Fat Chance! (Score:3, Funny)

    by anti-human 1 ( 911677 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:55PM (#24025023) Journal
    If old people were in fact the biggest demographic, there would likely be at least one station that plays nothing but Matlock and Walker, Texas Ranger. AARPTV or something.
  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:03PM (#24025079) Journal
    So does this mean that today's youth are outside riding bikes, skipping, playing games, building tree forts, etc?
  • Simple demographics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jeff Hornby ( 211519 ) <<jthornby> <at> <>> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:14PM (#24025167) Homepage

    Given that the trailing edge of the baby boom turns 48 this year, I would have to guess that this statistic is a result of the demographic bulge. So the reason that these numbers are starting to skew higher is that there is now a higher percentage of the general population over 50.

    In other words, move along there's nothing to see here.

  • by Monkey_Genius ( 669908 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:36PM (#24025361)
    Homer: I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me -- no matter how dumb my suggestions are.(Pulls out a "nuts and gum" mixture, starts chomping.)
  • I'm 50 and I don't watch TV at all...
  • by Yold ( 473518 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @11:07PM (#24025587)

      All my friends (myself excluded), spend 80-90% of the time they could be watching TV, playing video games. Hell, my boss who is in his mid-thirties, and well educated, spends his would-be-watching-tv time playing video games too. Same with many of my co-workers.

      And then there are people like me (read cheapskates), who only have extremely basic cable because it comes at next to nothing w/ cable modem service. Netflix on-demand, for like $9 a month, gives me a plethora of documentary programming, and some decent movies, fills in the gaps that free television websites (,, do not provide.

      What I have been saying for the last couple years is that cable companies should allow people to pick 10 networks, and be able to watch any of the content at any time, and stream it over the internet. Hell, I'll even provide the computer, it is easy enough to hook one up to a television nowadays. Some cable companies do it now with set-top boxes, but WTF do I want Style Network, Lifetime Network, and 20 other shitty channels just to be able to get their "premium" tier of service (on-demand). At a cost of like $80 a month w/ a cable modem. I'd gladly pay half that for what I just mentioned.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Alioth ( 221270 )

      It's not unusual for people in their mid 30s to be gamers instead of TV watchers. Don't forget, those in their mid 30s were the *vanguard* of gamers - they grew up with the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, BBC Micro etc. - the Spectrum alone had over 8,000 titles available by the late 80s.

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @11:12PM (#24025625) Homepage

    Except for sports (which we use an antenna), nobody in my family has watched live TV for several years. We get Internet for our news (usually more in depth) and for TV shows we wait until the end of the season and then when the season's DVDs come out, read the reviews on Amazon and talk to friends.

    Cost wise, over the course of the year, the season sets for a dozen shows (say $50 average each for sake of argument) is less than the cable/satellite options which have the specialty channels with CW, HBO, SHO & SciFi shows as well as the network shows. Having the DVDs allows very comfortable time-shifting and being able to re-watch of shows.

    I know quite a few people do it this way (with some swapping of sets although with the recipient usually watching an episode or two and then buying a set for themselves if they like the show).

    Maybe it's *my* demographic, but it works and the content owners are being paid for their product.


  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @11:25AM (#24031341)
    Gene Rodenberry had a number of things in his Star Trek utopia like no money, no racism, no inter-human wars. But most curious to me was no television, but Gene didnt explain why. Instead we find people entertaiing themselves in the first two Star Trek series by going to cafes, plays, concerts, playing cards and reading. Maybe he thought TV was pandered to the masses and was too low-brow.

You must realize that the computer has it in for you. The irrefutable proof of this is that the computer always does what you tell it to do.