“On December 31, 2013, the last of the Baby Boomers will turn 50 years old,” wrote blogger Gary Holmes, “and the most significant generational cohort in history will graduate from the 18-49 TV ratings category,” oft described as “highly prized” or “most coveted.” But, asks Holmes, “With the Boomers moving into a new demographic, isn’t it time for reporters to stop fixating on 18- to 49-year-olds?”
Holmes is a communications consultant in the Greater New York City area, and knows from whenst he speaks. For six years, Holmes was the Nielsen Company’s Chief Press Officer and VP of Communications; and he is in his early 50s. He spoke to us about his blog, which also appears on Media Post.
“I think 18-49 is an outmoded as a catch-all for all reporting. Reporters automatically cite 18 to 49 without thinking ‘Is that really the right demographic for this show? There are plenty of networks that have big audiences who are in the 50 to 65 range, but no one thinks to cite them as a category. They should think more seriously about what’s the more important demo—if they cite one at all. They’d be better off citing the total number of viewers.”
Holmes is skeptical that advertisers are disinterested in consumers 50 and older. As he wrote in his blog, “[They] have far more disposable income than those in their teens and 20s.” The conventional argument is that older people have fixed buying patterns and brand preferences, “so there is no point trying to get them interested in anything other than adult diapers and denture cream once they get into their 50s.” But the Baby Boomers are a generation that is open to new experiences; Holmes himself routinely buys different brands of shaving cream, breakfast cereal and gasoline. They have a few brand preferences, perhaps toothpaste and cola, but are not habitually brand loyal.
Besides which, TV viewers over 50 do buy laptops, cell phones, tablets and digital cameras, none of which were available when the Boomers were young and developing their buying habits. “If ad buyers for these products are discounting older viewers,” Holmes wrote in his blog, “they should be fired.”
What do those older viewers watch? The news, strongly. As Holmes described to us, “The ratings for the Republican debates were four times higher in the 50+ demographic than in the 18 to 49 range. So three quarters of the people watching the debates were over 50, but the media persists in quoting ratings at 18 to 49.” Is that simply a matter of political demographics—that younger people lean toward the Democratic party? Not necessarily. “Older viewers are more apt to watch the news than younger ones,” says Holmes. Thus any broadcast news outlet can have poor ratings in the 18-49 demo, but great ratings in total viewership.
What does Holmes watch, himself? “I watch Mad Men, but also Colbert and The Daily Show, and NBC’s Thursday-night comedies, Modern Family, ESPN. And I have a 20 year-old son, and we watch many of the same shows. Goes to show you.”
Advertisers, take note: of 26 current affairs personalities, most elicit strong positive or negative reactions. That according to Harris Interactive, which has released The Harris Poll results of a survey of 2,016 adults.
As Harris observes, current affairs consumers a few decades ago were restricted to the three network anchors, being Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and Chet Huntley—all fairly staid and uncontroversial personalities. Today’s viewers have the choice of three network anchors, plus a multitude of personalities via cable stations, and “even a radio personality who transcends many of his brethren on television,” being Rush Limbaugh.
Harris Interactive offered the list of 26 current affairs personalities and asked those surveyed which three are their favorites. Almost one-quarter said ABC News' Diane Sawyer (23%), while one in five chose CNN's Anderson Cooper (19%) and NBC's Brian Williams (19%). Rounding out the top five favorite current affairs personalities were Bill O'Reilly (15%) and Barbara Walters (15%). A little further down the list are George Stephanopoulos (14%), Matt Lauer (13%), Katie Couric (13%), Rush Limbaugh (9%) and Sean Hannity (9%).
Looking at the flip side, when asked to identify their least favorite, almost half chose Rush Limbaugh (46%). Three in ten chose Bill O'Reilly (31%) and almost one-quarter chose Nancy Grace (23%). Rounding out the top ten least favorite news personalities are Sean Hannity (14%), Katie Couric (10%), Piers Morgan (10%), Barbara Walters (10%), Chris Matthews (10%), Rachel Maddow (7%) and Wolf Blitzer (7%).
All News Is Political
The political bent of a network (real or perceived) and of individual personalities affected the survey results dramatically.
For Republicans, the top three favorite current affairs personalities are Bill O'Reilly (29%), Sean Hannity (25%) and Rush Limbaugh (22%) while for Democrats and Independents the top three are Diane Sawyer (28% and 25% respectively), Anderson Cooper (24% and 21%) and Brian Williams (24% and 20%).
Interestingly, one person is in the least liked top three for all three political parties. For Republicans, the three least liked current affairs personalities are Nancy Grace (25%), Rush Limbaugh (24%) and Chris Matthews (18%). For Democrats, the three news personalities that are the least favorite are Rush Limbaugh (66%), Bill O'Reilly (45%), and Sean Hannity (23%) while for Independents it is Rush Limbaugh (49%), Bill O'Reilly (31%) and Nancy Grace (25%).
Harris acknowledges that viewers tune into these personalities for different reasons. A broadcast network personality is (in theory) supposed to provide the news objectively, while that is not what a viewer expects of, for example, Sean Hannity. Thus one viewer may watch Brian Williams because watching NBC for news is simply a habit, while another tunes into conservative personality Bill O'Reilly for his political leanings. So O’Reilly is more likely to be tagged as a “least favorite” than Williams. In short, one will both lose, and gain viewers, by advertising on an O'Reilly broadcast.
The 54th Annual Grammy Awards (airing Sunday, Feb 12 on CBS) will have “record-breaking distribution around the world,” reports Broadcasting & Cable. The show is cleared to air in 195 territories, including on Global Television in Canada; Channel 4 in the UK; MNET in Africa; even in Russia, on REN TV.
Chrysler Group’s U.S. dealers have “swung into action” to defend Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad, reports the Wall Street Journal. The “Halftime in America” spot featuring Clint Eastwood has been derided as political and pro-Obama, drawing ire from among others Rush Limbaugh. The dubious connection: the Obama administration after four years is only in its halftime. Chrysler’s Dealer Council called an emergency meeting and issued a statement that "We have no doubt that this ad had no political agenda of any kind but rather [was] a statement of fact and hope for the future for all of us and America."
Also from Broadcasting & Cable, Fox will end House after eight seasons. This eighth season will end on episode 177. “House M.D.” has declined in ratings, and Fox needs some room on the schedule with “Alcatraz” performing well and the new drama “Touch” launching in March.
Roseanne Barr will be back on network TV this fall. Director Gail Mancuso (who directed Barr’s first sitcom “Rosanne” on ABC for seven seasons) has signed on to direct “Downwardly Mobile,” about life in a trailer park, reports Deadline Hollywood.
BBC America will launch its first original program, “Copper,” to air summer 2012. Set in post-Civil War New York (but shot in Toronto), the series will follow Irish beat cop Kevin Corcoran as he patrols NYC’s notorious Five Points neighborhood.
- Clear Channel will today announce its acquisition of a minority stake in Ryan Seacrest Productions. As the New York Times reports, this cements an already tight bond, as Seacrest, is a host, producer and spokesman for Clear Channel. No word yet as to the sum of Clear Channel’s investment in Seacrest, but he is expected to produce scripted and unscripted TV shows and other content. . Ryan Seacrest Productions currently produces “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” for E! and is producing new reality shows for Bravo and CMT.
- Why did Priceline.com kill off William Shatner and its “Priceline Negotiator” after 14 years? Priceline.com says launched the ad because the company is moving toward fixed-price discounts, whereas Shatner and the Negotiator had become to heavily identified with negotiating a price, reports Yahoo Finance.
- Former New York governor and CNN anchor Eliot Spizer will host “Countdown” this week, covering for an ailing Keith Olbermann, reports TVNewser. Spitzer will co-host “Countdown” with Bill Press for tonight’s Florida primary coverage. This will be Spitzer’s first hosting job since he left CNN in July, 2011. TVNewser speculates that this is a test-drive for a more permanent gig. Interestingly, CurrentTV took out a full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times promoting its political coverage, with pictures of hosts Cenk Uygur and Jennifer Granholm—sams Olbermann, with whom the network has had fractious relations.
- Simon Cowell has canned “The X Factor” judges Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul as well as host Steve Jones, reports New York Daily News. Cowell produces the performance competition show for The Fox Network, and is purportedly miffed over lower-than-expected ratings. No word yet as to replacements, though Mariah Carey is a likely candidate; Cowell supposedly wanted Carey as a judge in Season One, but declined as she was pregnant at the time.
The new Weather Channel Companies chairman and CEO comes from advertising, and that will benefit local advertisers. David Kenny told Cable360 that “Nobody has a local infrastructure like we do. Advertisers are looking for scale and ubiquity,” and of course a highly engaged audience. “Most of our users come back every day,” and the company’s digital property attracts 62 million unique monthly users.
Kenny was named CEO only yesterday, and formerly helmed global ad giant Digitas. Kenny told AdAge that his first priority at The Weather Channel is “to move things faster.” Kenny told Cable360 it is too soon to about the advanced advertising formats he has in mind, but promised “Pretty big innovations around the way we sell advertising and the solutions we bring advertising…using all the streams together and using our local footprint in a very different way.” Kenny hinted at the power of digital/mobile access to weather information, so presumably those innovations include cross-platform convergence. And Kenny knows digital as well as he knows advertising: in addition to Digitas’ strong cross-platform experience, Kenny was tapped in November for the CEO spot at Yahoo! He withdrew his name, but continues to serve on the Yahoo! board of directors.
According to Weather Channel demographics, its TV viewers have a respectable median household income of $74,493, and 41.5% are adults 18-49.
Katie Couric's syndicated talk show, not due to debut until September, has been cleared in 93% of the country, reports Disney-ABC Domestic Television. The company's President Janice Marinelli described that "The sales momentum behind 'Katei' has been truly remarkable...we believe the show has led the charge in the first-run syndication marketplace this year."
ABC enthuses that Katie Couric is "an award-winning journalist, best-selling author and popular TV personality," whi will serve as a co-executive producer. But is Katie as a helmer a good idea? As The Hollywood Reporter described, CBS Evening News with Couric in the anchor chair trailed ABC and NBC for five years straight. "It’s no slam-dunk she’s going to be a success,” said Senior VP of Research for Horizon Media, when the talkshow was announced last June. “Jane Pauley tried a talk show and that really didn’t pan out to her. She certainly was a forerunner to Katie Couric, so there’s no guarantee."
The eponymously-tltled "Katie" will be a one-hour live broadcast. Sales thusfar include 95 of the top 100 markets. In addition to the ABC Owned station group, “Katie” has also been sold to stations from such broadcast groups as Allbritton Communications, Belo Corporation, Cox Media Group, Gannett Broadcasting, Granite, Griffin, Hearst Television, LIN Broadcasting, McGraw-Hill, Media General, Meredith, Raycom, Scripps Howard Broadcasting, Sinclair and Young Broadcasting.
The national counsel for the Newt Gingrich GOP presidential campaign has fired off cease-and-desist letters to Florida and South Carolina TV stations. The stations are running an ad which attacks Gingrich on ethics.
“We we do hereby DEMAND that your station immediately REFUSE, and if started, CEASE airing any such advertisements,” read the letter from the campaign national counsel Stefan Passantino. The ad in question is from the political action committee (PAC) Restore Our Future, which supports Mitt Romney. The ad calls the $300,000 Gingrich paid after a House ethics investigation a “fine,” while Gingrich argues that it was compensation to the Ethics Committee for expenses. The PAC has pushed back, calling the letter a "desperate attempt to conceal Gingrich's ethics baggage” before the Florida primary.
In a Wednesday e-mail to NBC News, Passantino claimed to have put the PAC on notice that the “free ride they have enjoyed to misstate Newt's record [is] over. Discussing true facts concerning one's record are fine, using Super PAC funds to mislead voters will no longer be tolerated.” No sign yet that any stations are pulling the ads.
Radio/TV news source RBR-TVBR opined that “It is not the job of broadcasters to police political content,” and that broadcasters general err on the side of running such ads.
WWD reported on the “Kardashian Krash” that scares magazine buyers rather than attracts them. WWD has reported the results for 2011, quoting Audit Bureau of Circulations and Rapid Report data. Actress Mila Kunis boosted the August GQ to its best-selling cover of the year, boosted sales at W by 15% in March, and 10% at Cosmopolitan in February. Other perennial champs are Sara Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston and Heidi Klum, who delivered champ sales at Glamour and Elle. On the flip side, Justin Timberlake graced the covers of the worst-selling Esquire of the year in October. Justin Bieber was coverboy for the third worst-selling issue of Vanity Fair since 1992.
Oprah Winfrey has announced she will take over as CEO of her struggling cable network OWN in addition to her current role as chairman. She is also expected to serve as chief creative officer and will move into both positions in the fall, according to Forbes. OWN started out on a high at it’s New Year’s Day launch, drawing more than one million viewers in prime time, but soon settled into a months-long hangover. It now averages about 260,000 viewers in prime time, and on an all-day basis, ratings have been just a third of those expected by advertisers.
Netflix and NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution have announced a multi-year renewal of their licensing agreement expanding the selection of non-exclusive NBCU film and TV library titles available to watch instantly streaming from Netflix. Programming under the deal includes prior-season series across multiple NBCU networks, including NBC hits "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Parenthood." All future seasons of these shows will be available on Netflix on a one season delay basis. Under the deal, Netflix members will also be able to enjoy prior season episodes of "Law and Order: SVU" and "The Event."
ABC has renewed summer drama Rookie Blue for a third season, writes Broadcasting & Cable. Rookie Blue ranks number one with adults 18-49 in its Thursdays at 10 p.m. time slot. Its sophomore season is up 8% in total viewers and 14% in the 18-49 demo from its averages last summer. The series is one of the few scripted originals on broadcast during the summer months.
- Lifetime's new reality show, "Roseanne's Nuts," featuring Roseanne Barr, the comedienne and former hit TV show star, premieres tonight at 9 p.m. The last time Roseanne Barr attempted to make a comeback she had two shows canceled within days of each other. It was the summer of 2003, reports Media Life Magazine.
Wimbledon events will move from NBC to ESPN starting next year. The deal includes the men's and women's finals runs for 12 years. The head of the All England Club said money played a role in the decision to go to ESPN, but it was not the only factor, writes Media Daily News. NBC had carried the tournament for 43 years. ESPN (since 2003) and the Tennis Channel have carried matches recently, along with NBC, which has carried the finals with a "Breakfast at Wimbledon" brand.
Scripps Networks is likely to complete its best upfront ever, with volume for the programmer approaching the billion dollar plateau, reports MultiChannel News. Scripps, whose lifestyle network portfolio comprises Food Network, HGTV, DIY, Travel, Cooking Channel and GAC, is "98% done" with its upfront selling, as some smaller accounts remain outstanding.
Comedy Central has scheduled its roast of Charlie Sheen to air on September 19, the same evening that Ashton Kutcher is set to premiere as Sheen's replacement on the CBS series Two and a Half Men. "It’s definitely fortuitous timing for us," said a Comedy Central spokesperson. "Everything aligned.” Comedy Central's roasts attract millions to the network. The most recent, featuring Donald Trump on March 5 drew 3.48 million viewers. The previous roast, of David Hasselhoff, delivered 3.51 million viewers on August 15, 2010, reports Ad Week.
CBS may be bringing 3D versions of its shows to a 24-hour cable network, and it has previewed a 2D-to-3D converted programming privately to several operators, according to industry sources familiar with the project. The broadcast network is considering a strategy to gain distribution for the 3D channel through its retransmission-consent negotiations with cable, satellite and telco TV operators, writes MultiChannel News.